“I will never, ever, ever, ever do a PhD! Ever!”
There, I’ve said it, and it’s in writing on the internet. Four ‘evers’. You can’t get more ‘forever’ than that.
Now, those of you who are full blooded positivity geeks, will instinctively know that this IS NOT the behaviour we’d normally expect. Isn’t my defiant attitude a bit defeatist?
Well, I can state it for two reasons:
Andy C has already done a PhD and it acts as the foundation of all that we do. It took him 12 years and, somewhat ironically, his PhD in Happiness ended up making him unhappy.
Plus, I’ve recently completed a two-year MSc in Positive Psychology. I like to think of it as ‘PhD-lite’? It gave me a good grounding in academia and challenged me but without ruining my life.
At ‘Art of Brill’ we do get that academia is a good thing. We firmly believe that it gives our keynotes and workshops a degree of credibility. Our workshops on positivity, happiness, strengths, purpose and resilience are not based on a whim, they’re backed by a dozen years of research. But we do have a gripe when academia becomes big words for the sake of big words. The boffins have become very clever at disguising their findings in a special language that’s impenetrable to me and thee.
Two examples. First, Andy was asked to reword his simple academic finding that happy people ‘choose to be positive’, to the more heavyweight ‘conscious affirmative affective bias’. He declined.
Example two. Last week I got chatting to a lovely lady about Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs). She passionately shared stories with me of how she actively goes through her week, looking for opportunities to do them, and has done for the past year. She was properly excited, you could see it in her eyes.
I asked her,* “How often do you do them?”*
She replied, “Oh, I have no idea. I just do them when I see them... there’s no formula to it.”
This immediately sent me back to a few weeks of my MSc life, when, guess what, I had to write a critical paper on ‘Random Acts of Kindness’. Yes, I had to critique research into RAKs!
I remember reading two papers which were having an academic ding-dong about the best way to carry out RAKs. One paper claimed that doing one a day for five days led to optimal well-being, whereas the other paper challenged it, by claiming it was best to save five up and do them in one day.
I did what academia requires, and submitted a 3,000 word assignment while all the time thinking, who cares? People just need to actively do them and enjoy the benefit from it.
I guess this is why our sessions, while grounded in academia, resonate with people. We just share what we have learnt, in a simple way, and it’s down to the individual to give it a go and see what works for them.
The good news is that we won’t be asking you to indulge in conscious affirmative affective bias, but we might suggest some techniques that will improve your odds of choosing to be positive. We can share a few decent ideas and then, just like the lady who is doing RAKs, you can crack on with experimenting what works best for you.
If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else.
Now that’s clever!
I’ve been reading James Kerr’s fabulous book, ‘Legacy’ about the all-conquering All-Backs. Kerr’s introduced me to the southern African word, ‘Ubuntu’: ‘What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.’
And I suddenly twigged that for the last 10 years The Art of Being Brilliant has been talking about Ubuntu, our version of which says, you’ve got 4,000 weeks to make a dent in the universe.
But there’s a bit of the wider world of positive psychology that is missing. It’s the spark plug bit – small but highly significant.
My PhD has ended up being about ‘flourishing’ - when an individual feels happy and this positivity is transmitted to their work colleagues. In such instances, this so-called ‘multiplier effect’ could be felt within the organisation’s suppliers, business partners, work colleagues and customers. But, of course, the multiplier effect is so much bigger than that. Tisdale & Pitt-Catsuphes found that a child’s sense of well-being is affected less by the long working hours of their parents and more by their mood on returning home. Their conclusion is that working long hours in a job you love is better for family relations than working shorter hours and coming home unhappy. You might have to re-read that for it to sink in? It’s not about work, it’s about how you come through the door.
My research about engagement in the workplace excites me. It has the power to transform individuals, teams and entire organizations. But it doesn’t excite me nearly as much as the transferability of the ‘multiplier effect’ to your home.
Back to ‘Legacy’ where Kerr sums it up better than I ever can, ‘Our first responsibility is to be a good ancestor’.