Dr Tal Ben-Shahar – Harvard Open Courses 1504 – Positive Psychology 13

The session is about ‘setting goals’ and Tal brought in the question “Who are you? When is the most real you?”

The benefits of self-concordance include:

  • It’s easy to understand that setting self-concordance goals can potentially make us happier.
  • Having self-concordance goals resolve internal-conflict.
  • It’s a way to dealing with interpersonal conflict too.
  • It increases the likelihood of success. From “No pain, no gain” to “Do it better with pleasure”.
  • It’s self-reinforcing. It has trickle effect.

Tal suggested how to “set goals” below:

  1. Writing them down
  2. Setting lifelines
  3. Make them specific 
  4. Have long-term goals and break them to short-term goals. 

Based on Amy Wrzesniewski’s research, I think over my own experience. At present, I am regarding my job as something between career and calling. More likely to be a career than a calling. I took my first job as a calling as I worked hard and felt guilty if I didn’t do it well. However, I didn’t have a balance in the previous job. Any work can be perceived as a job, a career or a calling. It depends on how we interpret it.

When we pursue our passions, a self-concordant goal and a self-concordant journey, that’s when we come alive, that’s when we also make the world a better place.

When we are stressed, we are more likely to narrow and constrict. So what can we do about stress? Stress is actually good for us, but the lack of recovery from stress harms us. According research on happier people, there are two things they do differently:

  • They set rituals for themselves.
  • They set rituals for both work and for recovery. To attain multi-level recovery.

Interesting research findings:

  • To easy is not necessarily good. 
  • When you are acting according to your character strengths, you feel energised and motivated. It comes from within. It feels natural.
  • The broaden-and-build theory – experience of positive emotions broaden people’s momentary thought–action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources.

People and their work:

  • Muzafer Sherif or Elliot Aronson – to resolve interpersonal conflicts is to have a super ordinate goal, a goal in which both sides engage in and are intra-dependant.
  • Ellen Langer – we have opportunities to choose what we want to do and well-being.
  • Book The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM) – classification of all known mental disorders.
  • Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman – Value in action (VIA) – identified 24 character strengths.
  • William James – when is the most real you?
  • Amy Wrzesniewski – people’s perception of work – (1) Job is a job. (2) Job is a career (3) Job is a calling.
  • Ambani Carter, one of the co-founders of Women in Business – “Instead of focusing on what we can live with, we should be thinking about what we can’t live without.”
  • Ellen Langer – Beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Richard Kadison – stress – 45% students experience depression.
  • Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book The Power of Full Engagement – have 60 to 120 minutes of sprint, work, concentrate, focus, hard go for it, and then after that have 15 minutes of recovery. [Tal recommended this ritual. It’s reasonable, but I feel it’s difficult to have 60 minutes focus without distribution from people in my daily work. It’s definitely possible once or twice a day, but continuous sprints and breaks are difficult as people will come to the office, phone rings. meetings or discussions will take place in any time. If I don’t talk to people when they talk around, it’s just isolating myself, isn’t it? Not sure how practical it is in a work environment like mine. ]
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