he other day I was approached by an acquaintance who was offering me a great opportunity to be a part of a great organization where a lot of money could be made with very little work. He got my name in passing and was good at following up leads. During his call to schedule a time to meet and discuss this opportunity further, I found myself in a dilemma. While this may indeed be a good option to explore further and the guy offering this was a new acquaintance, there was no way I was going to add anything more to my schedule, especially another job. So what to do?
A little into the call I simply told him “no”. I was not interested in adding anything more to my life. A few years ago I would have gone into even more of an explanation and justification of my answer in hopes to not hurt his feelings or our relationship. But I have discovered that the art of saying “no” is often enough in itself. No explanation is usually needed unless it is requested and the relationship is higher on the importance list.
Saying “no” is easy when it is a telephone solicitor or via email. As the degree of contact and the importance of the person rises, saying “no” is more difficult. However, it is important to be able to tell even the important people in life “no” if you hope to have more authority and power over your life. Being able to take charge of your life may mean that everything and everyone will not fit into your dreams and goals. It’s time to face the fact that some things and people are energy drainers. You dread the conversations with them when you meet in the hall at work. You see their name on the caller ID and your insides tighten, but you still answer the phone (even though your voicemail works fine).
Let’s begin to employ the art of saying “no” more frequently. For some of you that may mean this week you only tell two people “no”. Which would double your normal rate. Start small and work your way up. This week, when faced with something you really don’t want to do, say so. When given the wrong order at the restaurant, speak up. This is an easy way to learn how to say “no” which will increase the likelihood that you will be able to say it to more people, even those towards the top of the importance list.
Saying “no” allows you to stay on target with your values and goals. I do not recommend saying “no” just for the sake of saying “no”. Say it to take charge of your time. To take charge of your family. Your marriage. Your job. Your recreation. And say “no” without a long drawn out explanation, which often turns into excuses. Say “no” confidently. It will empower your spirit and your life!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
David Bennett worked hard climbing the corporate ladder and found himself in a great position where he could influence and serve at a high level. His wife and three sons were doing well. Life was great! Then it all changed.
“My wife became ill,” said Mr. Bennett. “For three years we went from one doctor to another trying to figure out what was wrong. No one could give us a firm diagnosis. All the while, my wife was going downhill fast. One physician thought she needed ionic (salty) sea air to breathe and detox her body. He encouraged us to move as soon as possible.”
Willing to try anything for relief, Heather Bennett loaded up the boys and headed to Michigan for a month to see ifa change in environment surrounded by her extended family would help.
“Towards the end of the month I started feeling better, but when we returned to Atlanta I tanked,” said Mrs. Bennett. “I was ready to move anywhere for relief from whatever was attacking my body. If it meant packing up the family and moving to Florida, I was ready to go, David was more reluctant.”
Angry and defensive Mr. Bennett thought the physician was completely irresponsible in telling them to uproot their family and move when he didn’t know if this was truly a remedy. Intense discussions were a regular occurrence as the Bennett’s tried to figure out their next step.
“I was thinking about how hard I had worked to get to my current position,” said Mr. Bennett. “I wanted my wife to get better, but at the same time I wanted to keep my career momentum going. I also thought about the challenge of selling our house in a down economy.”
After speaking with several mentors and wrestling with the situation, Mr. Bennett realized his identity resided in his position at work instead of his calling at home.
“If you ask most business people where family falls on their list of priorities, they would say first,” said Mr. Bennett. “Until your back is against the wall you don’t really know if that is true. I had to step back and realize that my identity is a husband first, dad second followed by work. I will never earn enough money to make up for losing my family. I want to be the only husband Heather will ever have and the only father for my children.”
The Bennett’s decided to make the move. In addition to knowing that this was the best thing for Heather, they also thought this was a great opportunity to model what it meant to take care of your family. Recently, Mr. Bennett was reflecting about the move with his oldest son. His son shared he thought it brought their family closer together.
“I was scared to death of what this was going to do to me internally,” said Mr. Bennett. “It has been ten months since we made the move. We sold our house, downsized significantly and I took a different position in the company. Best of all, Heather is symptom free. We have much less today, but at the same time we have so much more. It is times like these when you really find out what you value.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfil it’s purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about. The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees.
There are a number of different anger/conflict situations that managers will face at one time or another. Each of these situations is slightly different, and may require different sets of skills.
■one employee angry or in conflict with another
■employee angry or in conflict with manager (you)
■one employee angry at someone in another organization
■two factions that habitually square off
We are going to look at employee angry that is directed towards you as a manager.
The Anger Iceberg
You should be aware that the anger you see is much easier to deal with than the anger that goes unexpressed by employees. You should also know that the large proportion of employee anger is not expressed directly to the “boss”. It is this anger that is destructive to your organization since it will surface covertly through activities such as back-stabbing, un-cooperativeness, rumour spreading, and poor performance.
One important management/leadership task is to be alert to cues that indicate that there is anger sitting below the surface, unexpressed. While it may be frustrating to bear the responsibility of identifying and dealing with the “iceberg under the surface”, it is an important part of building a positive climate where conflict can be resolved. If you wait for an employee to broach the subject, when it is clear there is a problem, you may be sacrificing a great deal.
We are going to focus on how employee anger that is out in the open can be dealt with so that there is a potential for increasing the level of respect and harmony, and by extension, productivity.
1. Conflict/Angry situations become negative and destructive when they are not dealt with promptly and effectively. When the situations are dealt with properly, there is a tendency for a team to get stronger and better.
2. While angry employees may appear to want a specific issue addressed, they are looking for something else that they see as equally or more important. They want to be heard. If you don’t provide a means for them to be heard, they will find other more
subversive ways to be heard (and you won’t like it much).
3. Staff will watch very closely to see how you handle anger directed at you. Even if you have a private discussion with an angry employee, staff will know about it. Your ability to lead will depend on your behaviour, and the interpretation of your behaviour.
4. Most people react to anger directed at them with a fight or flight reaction. That is there is a gut reaction which, unchecked, results in “firing back” with an aggressive manner, defending oneself, OR, avoidance. Only in rare occasions will these gut reactions result in dealing with anger effectively.
Tips & Techniques For Dealing With Overt Angry Behaviour
1. When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
2. Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
3. Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:
“You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry at me. What’s up?”
4. If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:
“I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it”
Then follow up on the conversation.
5. Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:
“It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion”.
6. Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.
“George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?”
7. If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are). Trying to prove the employee is
incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.
“George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.”
8. A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.
“George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?”
9. At the end of a discussion of this sort, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:
a) Deal with feelings first
b) Move to issues and problem-solving
c) Go back to feelings (check it out)
Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared; he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We also must learn the valuable lesson of letting others make their own way in life and let them make their own mistakes and try not to interfere with what we believe may be best for them.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Once upon a time there was an island where all the human traits lived. This was before they resided in people, before they were labeled good or bad, they all just existed. Well one day the island began to sink. All the traits ran around seeking different plans of action based on their perception of the situation. Compassion was not very prepared, she had given or lent her boat to someone else long ago. She delayed her departure so she could help others, but finally compassion decided to ask for help. Prosperity was about to set sail on a grand boat equipped with the latest technology and furnished with all the comforts one could imagine. Compassion called out, “can I come with you?” Prosperity replied, “No way, my boat is full. I’ve spent hours packing it with all my gold, antiques and possessions. There is no space for you.”
Next compassion asked vanity, “can you help me?” Vanity said, “no way, have you looked at yourself? Your wet and dirty just imagine the mess you would make on my beautiful boat.” Then compassion saw pessimism struggling to push her boat into the water, she complained endlessly, “the boat was too heavy, the sand too soft, the water too cold, it was a miserable day, why does everything happen to me?” Compassion asked, “could you help me?” Pessimism replied, “oh your too good to sail with me. You will make me feel even more miserable, what if you drowned? I would feel too guilty, no, I cannot take you.” Then Compassion went to optimism. Optimism didn’t believe in all the doom and gloom, she knew that some how things would work out. Compassion called out, but optimism was too busy looking ahead, thinking of the next destination to hear compassions pleas. Compassion called out again and again, but for optimism there was no looking back and she sailed onto the future. Then compassion was ready to give up and decided top swim for safety.
So compassion swam and swam until nearly exhausted when she heard a voice call out from a boat just near the horizon, the voice said, “I’ll take you come on.” So, compassion kicked and paddled as fast as she could with her very last ounce of energy she pulled herself up onto the deck and passed out from exhaustion. When she awoke, the boat had already reached land. Compassion looked around to see where she was and who her savior had been, but there was no one else aboard. Then along the beach compassion saw knowledge walking along. So compassion asked knowledge, “who’s boat is this?” Knowledge replied, “this boat belongs to time.” Compassion was confused, “why would time help me when no one else did?” Knowledge replied, “because only time is capable of understanding the true value of compassion.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Martin: Come on, Sylvia, we’re going to miss our plane!
Sylvia: Martin, lighten up! I just need another minute. There’s little traffic on Sunday. We’ll end up waiting for our plane for an hour!
Martin: What if there’s a highway accident! You know how long it takes to go through security! It’ll be awful if we miss the plane!
Sylvia: Just a few more minutes! I have to -
Martin: You can finish that in the car………….
Sound familiar? Martin wants to be at the airport two hours in advance. Sylvia is happy to get there just in time to slip into the plane. People differ in their feelings about time schedules. We are born with an internal clock telling us what it means to be “on time” and we somehow pick partners with a different clock.
Stopping Time Our time conflicts can go on for years unless we figure out how to adjust to each other, depending on the circumstances. In this dialogue Martin becomes more anxious each minute and, as Martin complains, Sylvia will become more anxious (though she might hide it).
The Road to Power Snuggling
Spouses need to meet the same time schedule when they travel together on planes, attend parties, see movies or meet others.
The immediate goal isn’t to calculate the minutes needed to get to a plane or a party; instead, the goal should be to first understand how to relieve each other’s anxiety.
What will relieve Martin’s anxiety? He needs to get to the airport well in advance so he can relax. In this case Sylvia has to realize that just thinking of a missed plane will drive Martin bonkers so she needs to help him get to the airport early. Then, without resentment, she can read a book or talk on her cell phone while they wait at the airport for an hour or more. This becomes a win-win situation because it relieves both of their anxieties.
But, when it comes to an event where being late will not have dire consequences, such as attending a party, Martin needs to accept Sylvia’s relaxed clock. While Sylvia is getting ready, he can read or watch TV and refrain from any nagging.
Your Weekly Homework
Together, review situations when you had disagreements about time. Each should define what important deadlines mean to them. Then discuss how you can accommodate each other. Plan out the next set of events with the goal of avoiding anxiety for both. Stick to it without resentment.
Several years into her marriage, Jessica Carr discovered a receipt on her husband’s desk for a late lunch at a waterfront restaurant in Seattle, 45 miles from the farm she shares with him in Orting, Wash. He had told her he’d spent that whole day in business meetings.
“Uh-oh,” Ms. Carr, now 38, remembers thinking. She’d thought her husband had seemed emotionally distant because he was overwhelmed by raising two small children. Now, she worried something else was going on.
Ms. Carr, who owns a horse training, breeding and boarding business, confronted her husband. “What were you doing, and why did you lie to me?” she asked. She braced herself for the answer, and it surprised her: He’d just needed a little time alone.
“It seemed selfish to take the time for myself, but sometimes I need to unplug,” says Rich Carr, 49, owner of an interactive marketing company.
I love asking happy long-time married couples to tell me the secrets to their successful union. Over and over, I hear this answer: “We give each other space.”
Having enough space, or privacy, in a relationship is even more important to a couple’s happiness than a good sex life, according to a recent unpublished analysis of data from an ongoing federally funded longitudinal study. And women tend to be more unhappy with the amount of space in their marriage than men.
Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, has been studying 373 married couples for the past 25 years. When she asked participants if they felt they had enough “privacy or time for self” in their relationship, 29% said no.
Dr. Orbuch recently analyzed one year of data from her study and found more wives than husbands (31% versus 26%) reported not having enough space. She believes this is because women often have less time to themselves than men. Even when women have jobs outside the home, they still are typically the primary caregivers of children or aging parents. And because they also tend to have more friends than men, they often have more social obligations.
Dr. Orbuch asked participants if they were unhappy in their marriages. Of those who reported being unhappy, 11.5% said the reason was lack of privacy or time for self. That is a more common answer than the 6% who said they were unhappy with their sex lives.
“When individuals have their own friends, their own set of interests, when they are able to define themselves not by their spouse or relationship, that makes them happier and less bored,” says Dr. Orbuch, author of the book “Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great.” Space gives people time to process thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others. And the time apart gives partners something new to talk about. “Space brings excitement and novelty,” Dr. Orbuch says.
A person’s need for space is a function of innate personality, and of their “attachment style,” which is determined in infancy largely by the way we are parented, experts say.
People who had affectionate, nurturing parents are comfortable with both being close to others and being alone; they have a “secure” attachment style.
Those whose parents were inconsistently available to them emotionally often have an “anxious” attachment style. They crave closeness, fear abandonment—and need and want less space. Those whose parents were rejecting often have an “avoidant” attachment style, resisting closeness and seeking space because they fear they will be hurt.
People who fear closeness tend to seek out people who are warm and inviting. This is how someone who needs a lot of space ends up with a partner who hates to be alone.
Couples can work out their space issues, if they understand each other’s different needs and why. “Underneath, both individuals want love,” says Vondie Lozano, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Glendora, Calif. The space-seeking partner’s need may be greater because he probably has fewer social connections, Dr. Lozano says. “When the couple can see he is just afraid of being hurt and she is just afraid of being abandoned, and it all goes back to their families,” then they can stop taking it personally, she says.
Individuals who don’t get the space they need will find a way to create distance, Dr. Lozano cautions. They may lash out or withdraw. “If you don’t give them their physical space, they will take emotional space,” she says.
Mr. Carr grew up in an Air Force family, moved around a lot and often lived on farms. He says this upbringing made him self-sufficient. He experienced periods of isolation after each move, because it would take time to make new friends. He learned to entertain himself by riding horses and hiking in the woods.
Ms. Carr says she would like less space because she spends a lot of time alone in her work day, doing chores and riding.
Earlier in the marriage, Mr. Carr sometimes would schedule a meeting in Seattle and spend an afternoon walking around Pike Place Market. “That meeting with business representatives took half an hour, and my meeting with myself took two,” he says. He often took back-to-back business trips.
At home, he often snapped at his kids, grunted at his wife or sat there, scowling. “I needed to get some stuff out of my head,” he says. Ms. Carr tried not to take her husband’s grumpiness and distraction personally, but it was hard. “I started to pull back because I thought he wasn’t happy with me,” she says.
Around this time, the Carrs overheard a couple, whom they didn’t know, arguing. Each presented his or her view, then calmly discussed it. At one point, the husband noted they were late for an appointment and suggested they talk again the next day. “I saw that and thought, ‘We need to schedule time to talk, to visit and discuss what we each need to get done,’ ” Ms. Carr says.
Now, the Carrs have marriage meetings. At 5:30 each morning, espressos in hand, they sit for an hour by a wall of windows overlooking Mount Rainier, catching up on personal stuff. Then they call up their joint calendar online and discuss the day’s schedule—including the personal time each one will need. “What works is making this a part of a normal conversation,” Mr. Carr says.
After the meeting, he goes for a walk of a half-hour or more with his Labrador retriever. Some afternoons, he sits in an old chair overlooking the pasture in back of the main stable. For a “major reset,” he schedules a stay at a business retreat center in Austin, Texas. This year and last, he spent three days alone at a rented cabin in the woods, Father’s Day gifts from his wife and kids. “When I give him his space to do what he wants,” Ms. Carr says, “he is more engaged, more excited and more rejuvenated when he comes home.”
Here’s how to negotiate for more space without hurting your partner.
• Be specific. Say, ‘I need the afternoon to myself.’ Simply saying ‘I need space’ sends confusing signals.
• Explain why more space makes you happy, so your partner knows it’s not about him or her.
• Enjoy the space you take. Guilt defeats the purpose, says Barbara F. Okun, counseling psychology professor at Northeastern University.
• No secrets. Tell your spouse what you did and with whom when you were away.
• Don’t get carried away. Too much space weakens your connection.
• Don’t forget to schedule couple time and family time, too.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Innovation is the name of the game these days — in business, in science and technology, even in art. We all want to get those big ideas, but most of us really have no idea what sets off those sparks of insight. Science can help! In the past few years, neuroscientists and psychologists have started to gain a better understanding of the creative process. Some triggers of innovation may be surprisingly simple. Here are five things that may well increase the odds of having an “Aha!” moment.
1. Take a shower.
A seemingly mindless task — showering, fishing or driving — might help spur creative thoughts, as the mind wanders from “lather-rinse-repeat” to a recent problem, and then back again. There’s even history to back this up.
As the ancient Greek engineer Vetruvius told us, Archimedes was lounging in a public bath when he noticed the water level go up and down as people got in and out. He suddenly realized that water could help him calculate the density of gold. “This alteration [of thoughts] may be very useful for churning the creative process,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Downtime also seems to reset the brain. In an upcoming study in Psychological Science, Schooler and his colleagues gave volunteers creativity problems followed by a period of rest. During that rest period, some were assigned a demanding task that kept the brain fully occupied, while a second group got a simpler task that allowed for mind wandering. A third group was given no task at all. Afterward, they all went back to try to complete the original problems. Those who could let their minds wander during the resting time were more likely to solve the creativity problems.
Researchers aren’t quite sure why mindless tasks help the creative process, Schooler says, but it could be that such tasks allow two different brain networks that aren’t usually turned on at the same time to be active. Schooler says: “It’s possible that there’s some opportunity for cross talk that’s useful.”
2. Work in a blue room.
As we grow up, colors take on specific associations — red means danger, and blue connotes peace and tranquility. Those associations affect how we think. In one experiment, people facing a red computer screen did better at detail-oriented tasks like proofreading. Volunteers who faced a blue screen did better at creative tasks. That study appeared in 2009 in the journal Science. Why the difference? Red makes us anxious, and “anxiety causes you to focus,” says Mark Beeman, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University who studies the neuroscience of creativity. Blue, he says, tells us we can relax and let the imagination roam free.
3. Live abroad.
Want to discover a new planet? Live in a foreign land. That’s what German-born astronomer William Herschel did while living in England in 1781 — he found the planet Uranus. He’s just one of many great scientists, artists, writers and composers who spent significant time living far from their native turf. A week in Paris isn’t enough to light the creative spark, delightful though that trip may be. The foreign sojourn has to be long enough to challenge your habitual ways of thinking and living.
People who had lived abroad performed better on creative problems and tasks, such as drawing alien creatures, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. They bested people who had traveled for only a brief time, or who had never left home. The researchers think adapting to a new culture may spur some sort of psychological transformation that enhances creativity.
4. Watch a funny video.
Mood matters when it comes to creativity. Anxiety focuses a person, but good cheer and contentment liberate creativity. It “might not just relax your scope of interest, but actually broaden it further,” allowing you to look at a problem in new ways and come up with a solution, says Beeman. It could be as simple as seeing a YouTube video of a laughing baby. That’s one of the images that boosted the creativity in a 2010 study in Psychological Science. Mood-boosting music helped, too. Beeman’s own research has indicated that a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. That brain region is linked to decision-making, empathy and emotion. Gearing it up may help the brain reach new insights by detecting ideas it may have otherwise ignored.
5. Sleep on it.
Sleep helps generate new ideas in several ways. During sleep, the brain consolidates memories. That act of consolidation actually reorganizes thoughts, much like organizing books on a shelf. The new arrangement can help extract knowledge and generate new associations. And that half-awake period right before you fall asleep or when you wake up may also help you focus on a problem.
Legend has it that Thomas Edison came up with an invention to harness the insights generated during those half-awake moments. When he catnapped, he would hold a handful of ball bearings above a pie plate. If he fell asleep, the ball bearings would fall, waking him up to write down his thoughts.
But you don’t need noisy ball bearings to gain the benefit of sleep. Just waiting a day to tackle a problem again takes advantage of the consolidation process, increasing the odds that new solutions to the problem will emerge. But don’t expect this to work every time. Beeman says the sleep-on-it solution works best when people feel that they are getting close to an answer that is most likely to be solved by waiting a day. In his own research, he found it’s those “it’s on the tip of my tongue” moments that are most likely solved with sleep.
“When you’re stuck on a problem,” Beeman says, “getting away from it for a while helps.” Especially if you’re in the tub. In a blue room. Watching the Marx brothers.
This article is part of Joe’s Big Idea, an NPR project to explore how innovations come about.
The question of what sparks innovation and creativity has been the source of fascination for centuries, and our era is no exception. Recent books on the subject include:
Aha! The New Neuroscience of Creative Insight, by John Kounios and Mark Beeman (Random House, 2011).
Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2011).
Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson (Riverhead, 2011).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
When the topic of video game addiction comes up, most people immediately picture a 13-year-old boy absorbed in his Sony PlayStation or Xbox. But gaming addiction also affects adults. From the executive to the stay-at-home mom, the compulsive use of video, computer, and Internet games causes thousands of adults to ignore important work and family obligations.
Many adults feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. These days, it’s not hard to understand why. Adults are frequently called upon to balance demanding jobs, the needs of spouses and children, and problems with ailing parents or friends in crisis. Everyone needs time to relax, unwind, and take their minds off real life.
This is where video and computer games come in. For most adults, the occasional car chase or celebrity boxing match in a video game can relieve stress and provide an hour of light entertainment. But those who begin to play video games excessively may become so engrossed in the virtual fantasy world that they shirk their responsibilities and other interests. Here are a few red flags that may point to a bigger problem:
- Lying about how much time you spend playing computer or video games
- Playing computer or video games results in intense feelings of pleasure or guilt that seem uncontrollable
- Spending more and more time playing video or computer games to get the same enjoyment
- Withdrawing from friends, family, or your spouse to the point of disrupting family, social, or work life
- Experiencing feelings of anger, depression, moodiness, anxiety, or restlessness when you’re not gaming
- Spending significant sums of money for online services, computer upgrades, or gaming systems
- Thinking obsessively about being on the computer or playing video games even when doing other things
In addition, adults addicted to gaming may have physical symptoms like difficulty sleeping, migraines, back and neck aches, dry eyes, or carpal tunnel syndrome. Video game addicts also may become so preoccupied with earning the high score or reaching the next level that they forget to eat, shower, shave, or take care of basic hygiene. If you are concerned that someone you know may be struggling with video or computer game addiction, the following are a few warning signs you may notice at home or at work.
One of the first people to notice compulsive computer or video game play is the addict’s spouse. Close friends and family members may be affected as well. When a video game addict spends more time playing games than playing with the kids or talking to his spouse, marital and relational problems frequently follow. In addition to ignoring friends and family, the gaming addict may neglect household responsibilities and chores in favor of “screen time,” and may lie to family members to avoid admitting he has a problem.
When a person is hooked on computer and video games, her work performance often suffers. In many cases, the gamer has stayed up all night playing games like “World of Warcraft” or “Everquest,” and is too tired to complete her daily tasks. Her boss may find her asleep on the job or failing to complete assignments on time, which could result in disciplinary action or even termination. What’s worse, some video game addicts will go so far as to play games during work hours, using company computers and equipment. Even when their lives are crumbling around them, gaming addicts put video and computer games above all else.
As an adult, you may not have parents or other authority figures monitoring your behavior. If you notice some of these red flags in your own life, it is up to you to get help. If you have noticed any of these warning signs in a friend, family member, or colleague, lend your support and share your knowledge. There are dozens of counseling and treatment options available for those dealing with compulsive behaviors like video game addiction.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
I was recently stumped by a seemingly obvious query that I hadn’t really considered. It was asked by a 4th grader: “What,” he wanted to know, “is the downside of creativity? Isn’t it possible that humans are toocreative?”
I muttered something incoherent about nuclear weapons and human ingenuity creating the seeds of its own destruction. I’m pretty sure I quoted Einstein. But I could tell he wasn’t satisfied, that my answer struck him as facile and trite, which it was. So here’s my attempt to give him a better answer, because I think the absurd success of human creativity comes with a real cost.
Geoffrey West, is a brilliant theoretical physicist at the Sante Fe Insititute. (He has done a lot of intriguing work on cities, trying to figure out why cities are “the most important invention in the history of human civilization” and why some cities are so much more innovative than others, at least measured by per capita production of patents.) Although West celebrates the inventiveness of cities – all those knowledge spillovers leads to new knowledge – he is quick to point out that our creativity has its disadvantages. New ideas, after all, have a disturbing tendency to become new things, and things aren’t free.
West illustrates the problem by translating the modern human lifestyle – and we live surrounded by our own inventions – into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he told me. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”
The historian Lewis Mumford described the rise of the megalopolis as “the last stage in the classical cycle of civilization,” which would end with “complete disruption and downfall.” In his more pessimistic moods, West seems to agree: he knows that nothing can trend upward forever, that eventually our creativity will make life utterly unsustainable. In fact, West sees human history as defined by this constant tension between expansion and scarcity, between the relentless growth made possible by our creativity and the limited resources that hold our growth back.
Of course, the only solution to the problem of human innovation is more innovation. After a resource is exhausted, we are forced to exploit a new resource, if only to sustain our craving for growth. West cites a long list of breakthroughs to illustrate this historical pattern, from the discovery of the steam engine to the invention of the Internet. “These major innovations completely changed the way society operates,” West says. “It’s like we’re on the edge of a cliff, about to run out of something, and then we find a new way of creating wealth. That means we can start to climb again.”
But the escape is only temporary, as every innovation eventually leads to new shortages. We clear-cut forests, and so we turn to oil; once we exhaust our fossil-fuel reserves, we’ll start driving electric cars, at least until we run out of lithium. Although human creativity has generated a seemingly impossible amount of economic growth, it has also inspired the innovations that allow the growth to continue. So here’s the paradox: creativity is the only solution to the very real problem of creativity.
There is a serious complication to this triumphant narrative of cliff edges and innovation, however. Because our lifestyle has become so expensive to maintain, every new resource now becomes exhausted at a faster rate. This means that the cycle of innovations has to constantly accelerate, with each breakthrough providing a shorter reprieve. The end result is that our creativity isn’t just increasing the pace of life; it is also increasing the pace at which life changes. “It’s like being on a treadmill that keeps on getting faster,” West says. “We used to get a big revolution every few thousand years. And then it took us a century to go from the steam engine to the internal-combustion engine. Now we’re down to about 15 years between big innovations. What this means is that, for the first time ever, people are living through multiple revolutions.”
Needless to say, such revolutions aren’t fun. They’re unsettling and disruptive. But they appear to be the inevitable downside of our ceaseless ingenuity, for creativity comes with a multiplier effect: new ideas beget more new ideas. The treadmill is going fast. And it’s getting faster.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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