Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 at 13:21 by admin

Book for November: Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander – The Art of Possibility

Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander: The Art of Possibility – Transforming Professional and Personal Life

I have been reading several books since my last book blog but none of them really touched me. This one did! The art of possibility is an interesting and different book.

It is written by two persons with quite different backgrounds. Rosamund Zander is an executive coach and family systems therapist and she has developed models for leadership, relationship and effective action. In addition to her work with children and families she has worked with corporations and government agencies. Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since 1979. He is a music teacher, guest conductor and a sought-after speaker to major organizations for his presentations on leadership and creativity.

The interesting thing is that reading this book makes you feel good instantly. Somehow the stories in the book take you to a pleasant journey that uplifts your spirits.

This book has 12 fascinating “practices” that help you transform your life. I will just highlight a three of them.

The first premise of the book is that much more is possible that people ordinarily think.  No matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of the brain that we perceive the world. So, if there are absolutes, we have no direct access to their existence. The mind constructs.

The questions we could ask ourselves is:  What assumptions am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see? And when we have an answer to that we could ask: What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me other choices?

This is how our brain is constructed and if we want a change in our lives this is the first thing that we need to address and understand. Every story we tell is founded on a network of hidden assumptions. We need to learn to notice and distinguish the stories that lead to unwanted conditions. We can’t magically change the conditions, but we can change the assumptions we base our life to assumptions that allow the conditions we desire.

An entertaining example of these assumptions is the old story about the shoe factory:

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One send back a telegram saying: “situation hopeless stop no one wears shoes”. The other writes back triumphantly: “glorious business opportunity stop they have no shoes!”.

Another practice is “The way things are”. This is like being mindfully present and accepting the facts without adding our own interpretations or conclusions about the facts.  Capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility. We should start from “what is”, not from “what should be”.  For example, rain is neither good or bad – rain just is.

One of the last practices in the book is “Being the board”, which means that you rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played.   “Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again.”  You accept the risks of the world, and instead of looking for someone to blame, you ask yourself “Well, how did this get on the board that I am? This gives you the power to transform your experience of any unwanted condition into one with which you care to live.

This book offers fresh and inspiring methods for transforming your life! These methods are based in neuroscience and positive psychology, but are wrapped in a way that makes the reading of the book a real pleasure. You can read the book as a guide to your personal transformation or as any novel to be enjoyed at any time you think you need some warmth and uplifting in your life!


Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2012 at 11:29 by admin

Book for July & August
Tal Ben-Shahar: Happier

This book is one of the first books I read when I started my “transition” from being a lawyer to being a coach. It had a big impact on my thinking about happiness and how one can truly become happy.  Dr Tal Ben-Shahar has been one of Harvard University’s most popular lecturers.

In his book Ben-Shahar has divided people to 4 categories:

1. Rat-racer Archetype – Rat racer lives in the hope of being happy in the future, and yet is unable to enjoy the here-and-now. There is a belief that once we reach a certain destination then we will be happy. Rat racers learn to focus on the next goal rather than the present experience. “Being a hard worker, or a high achiever, is not synonymous with being a rat racer. What differentiates rat racers is their inability to enjoy what they are doing – and their persistent belief that once they reach a certain destination, they will be happy.”

When I read the book I recognized some of these features in my own thinking. Reading the book woke me up and I learnt to value the present moment more and more. The present moment is the only moment we have in our lives. Past is gone and the future doesn’t yet exist. And if there is nothing to value in the present moment, start changing it. We only have one life in here (at least according to my belief J), don’t waste it.

2. Hedonism Archetype – Hedonist seeks pleasure and avoids pain. “The hedonist errs in equating effort with pain and pleasure with happiness. Without a long-term purpose, devoid of challenge, life ceases to feel meaningful to us; we cannot find happiness if we exclusively seek pleasure and avoid pain. In order to be happy, we need a balance between purpose and pleasure”.

I full heartedly agree this as well. I have kind of been there when living as an expat wife in South Africa with swimming pools and maids and plenty of free time to do all nice things. And still, after a couple of months the empty feeling of not having a real purpose, not doing anything really meaningful or “proper” struck me. I felt that it was my duty to be super happy in such circumstances and still that was not the case (nonetheless I enjoyed my time in SA J). We humans are funny, too much of only pleasure is not good for us either!

3. The Nihilism Archetype – “Nihilist is a person who has given up on happiness, who has become resigned to the belief that life has no meaning. Nihilist has the false belief that no matter what one does, one cannot attain happiness. When we fail to attain a desired outcome, we often extrapolate from that experience the belief that we have no control over our lives or over certain parts of it. Such thinking leads to despair.”

Some people think that life is what it is, and there is nothing much they can do about it. And they are wrong! Some people choose to be victims who beg for sharing their misery and some just choose to contaminate their negativity to those close by.

4. The Happiness Archetype – The Rat racer has the illusion that only the destination will bring happiness and the Hedonist’s illusion is that only the journey is important. “Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor it is about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”

Ben-Shahar speaks about the importance of having goals. The emphasis is on having goals not on attaining them. The process of striving after goals- rather than the goal attainment per se – is crucial for happiness and enjoyment of the present. Goals give us direction which allows us to enjoy each step.

Ben Shahar urges you to question yourself: “What gives me meaning?” “What gives me pleasure?” “What are my strengths?” The overlapping area of all three would help us determine what kind of work would make us happiest. He also says that we very often fail to recognize the rich sources of pleasure and meaning that are right in front of us in our work and life.

A quote by Howard Thurman from the book is a good ending to this book review: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”.

Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2012 at 10:00 by admin

Mitä ympärillä huomaamme
(aika vähän…)

Olen touko- ja kesäkuun ajan istunut Helsingin yliopiston neuro- ja kognitiivisen psykologian luennoilla. Sain taas kerran tieteellistä vahvistusta sille – vähän uskomattomallekin – asialle, että me ihmiset näemme ympärillä olevan maailman kaikki hyvin eri tavoin. Aivoihimme elämämme aikana rakentuneet yhteydet ja mallit ohjaavat vahvasti huomiotamme. Omia odotuksiamme ja sisäisiä mallejamme vastaavat ärsykkeet havaitaan helpommin, kuin sellaiset, jotka ovat sisäisten mallien kanssa ristiriidassa. Kuulemme ja näemme maailman ympärillämme omien oletustemme mukaisesti.

Tässä kaksi linkkiä, joiden kautta voit testata omaa tarkkaavuuttasi. Toisessa pitää laskea monta pallon heittoa joukkueen sisällä tapahtuu ja toisessa linkissä on korttitemppu. Kannattaa tsekata!

Testien jälkeen voi miettiä mihin oma tarkkaavuus tai fokus omassa elämässä on kiinnittynyt ja mitä ehkä jää huomaamatta. Tarkkaavuutta voi tietoisesti ohjata! Elämään voi syntyä aivan uusia ulottuvuuksia, kun ottaa uuden fokuksen. Esim. keskityn tänään siihen mitkä asiat ympärilläni ovat hyvin – mitä en ehkä olekaan vielä huomannut? Tai ehkä tänään katson jotain läheistä ihmistä arvostavien linssien läpi – voisinko nähdä hänessä jotain uutta? Vaihtoehtoja on paljon. Kannattaa kokeilla – vaikka kesälomalla! :)

Posted on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 by admin

Book for June (this time in Finnish)

Ajattelin kesän kunniaksi siirtyä intohimoista tunteisiin, niinpä kesäkuun kirja on:

Jarkko Rantanen: Tunteella – voimaa tekemiseen.

Jarkko Rantanen oli keväällä puhumassa tunteista Suomen Coaching-Yhdistyksen jäsenillassa. Esityksen innoittamana luin hänen kirjansa. Kirja on kiinnostava sekoitus tunteiden fysiologiaa ja psykologiaa, tieteellistä tutkimusta sekä vinkkejä ja esimerkkejä siitä, miten tunteita voi tunnistaa, käsitellä ja hyödyntää paremmin. Jarkko on kokenut johtoryhmien sparraaja, ja kirjassa on vahvasti esillä se, miten tunteita voi hyödyntää organisaatioissa sekä työelämässä yleensä.
Nykykirjallisuudessa ohitetaan helposti ns. negatiiviset tunteet ja niissä piilevä voima. Syntyy käsitys, että positiiviset tunteet ovat aina hyödyllisiä ja negatiiviset tunteet aina haitallisia. Pauhataan vain positiivisuudesta, joka sekin ymmärretään usein täysin väärin. Helposti voi syntyä kuva, että positiivisuus on oikeastaan pinnallista teeskentelyä tai tosiasioiden välttelyä, ja jo sana positiivisuus voi toisilla nostaa niskakarvat pystyyn. Aito myönteisyys on kuitenkin jotain ihan muuta kuin päälle liimattu hymy. Mm. kiinnostus, toivo, inspiroituminen ja kiitollisuus ovat myönteisiä tunteita, joiden lisääminen elämässä tutkitusti lisää hyvinvointia.

Itse nautin Jarkon tavasta esitellä yksittäiset tunteet siten, että kaikki tunteet ovat jollain tavalla tarpeellisia ja niitä voi oppia hyödyntämään. Esim. viha, inho tai suru ovat nekin meille hyödyllisiä tunteita. Ja elämässä on erittäin tärkeää oppia sietämään (ja jopa hyödyntämään) näitä vähemmän toivottuja tunteita. Tunteiden välttely tai kieltäminen sairastuttaa meidät.

Kirjassa on hienosti eritelty yksittäisten tunteiden kohdalla miten ne vaikuttavat tekemiseemme, päätöksentekoomme, sosiaalisuuuteemme, miten tunnetta voi hyödyntää organisaatioissa sekä miten itse voi käsitellä ja oppia paremmin hyödyntämään kyseistä tunnetta.

“Usein kuvittelemme, että tunteemme ovat yksityisasia, eivätkä kuulu muille. Asia ei kuitenkaan ole näin yksinkertainen – tunteesi vaikuttavat aivan keskeisesti ja monella tavalla muihin ympärilläsi. Ajatuksemme ovat kyllä yksityisiä – kukaan ei tiedä niistä mitään, ellemme kerro niistä itse. Mutta tunteemme ovat paljon julkisempia. Ajattele vaikka kasvojesi ilmeitä. Oletko koskaan tullut ajatelleeksi, että kasvojesi ilmeet ovat vain toisia varten? Ilmeilläsi ei ole mitään muuta tarkoitusta, kuin kertoa muille, miltä sinusta sillä hetkellä tuntuu.”

Emme voi välttää tunteita tai väittää, että “tunteet eivät kuulu meidän työpaikkaamme”. Tunteet ovat aina mukana siellä missä on ihmisiä, halusimmepa tai emme.“Koska tunteet vaikuttavat taustalla joka tapauksessa ja koko ajan, on paljon järkevämpää hyödyntää ne ja valjastaa ne rakentavaan käyttöön, kuin yrittää peittää ja unohtaa ne.”


Jarkko Rantanen - Tunteella

Posted on Sunday, May 27th, 2012 at 12:01 by admin

The value of happiness
– how employee well-being drives profits

Harvard Business Review had a section on happiness in its Jan-Feb 2012 issue. I strongly recommend everyone who is interested in growing profits, reading it! Below find a summary of the aspects that resonated with me.

This is what Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert had to say:

By and large happy people are more creative and more productive. Some managers think that contented people aren’t the most productive employees, so they prefer to keep the employees a bit anxious about their jobs. However, there is no data showing that anxious, fearful employees are more creative or productive. Contentment doesn’t mean sitting and staring at wall. That’s what people do when they are bored, and people hate being bored!

We know that people are happiest when appropriately challenged – when they are trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach. Challenge and threat are not the same thing. Psychologists have studied reward and punishment for a century, and the bottom line is perfectly clear: Reward works better.

If I had to summarize all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in on word, that word would be “social”. We are by far the most social species on Earth. If I want to predict your happiness, and I could know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about your social network – about your friends and family and the strength of your bonds with them.  So, cultivating a good spirit and remembering how important the social connections are also in the workplace really matters. Not to mention a balanced life where you have time for your other social networks as well.

In one of the other articles it was said that “In a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener found that happy employees have on average, 31 % higher productivity; their sales are 37% higher and their creativity is three times higher”

Research shows that when people work with a positive mindset, performance on nearly every level improves. Yet happiness is perhaps the most misunderstood driver of performance. For one, most people believe that success precedes happiness. “Once I get a promotion, I’ll be happy,” they think. Or, “Once I hit my sales target, I’ll feel great.” But because success is a moving target – as soon as you hit your target, you raise it again – the happiness that results from success is fleeting. In fact, it works the other way round: People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in face of a challenge.

When reading the article, remember that positivity is not about ignoring the facts or ignoring the things that suck, but ALSO seeing what is good and what is done well. We are encouraged to cultivate positive emotions like gratitude, joy, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement and inspiration. Training your brain to be positive is not so different from training your muscles at gym. If you want to get fit, you just need to do it!

Posted on Saturday, May 5th, 2012 at 12:01 by admin

The Book for May

So, it is spring and spring is the time for passion.

Therefore, the book for May is:

Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood: The Passion Test – the Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose

How many of you sometimes wonder “Who am I going to be or what I am going to do when I grow older?” This book gives you some tools to find out! Most of the messages in the book are based in the recent learnings of neuroscience and therefore even a skeptical reader, like myself, benefits from reading the book.

I particularly liked the idea of writing down your passions/interests. First an initial long list and then reducing it to 5 top passions by using a specific method. I also strongly believe in the two main messages of the book:

1. When you are clear, what you want will show up in your life, and only to the extent that you are clear.

I personally have experienced this. When you decide on something that you really believe in, things start to happen and doors will open.

2. What you put your attention on grows stronger in your life

What you give attention to, every moment of every day, day in and day out, determines what is created in your life. Your life today is the results of the predominant thoughts you have held up until now. If you want your life to change, change your mind!

Where you place your attention is primarily a habit and you can change any habit!

This is so true. And it comforts me. We really can take the responsibility of the direction of our lives. The circumstances do not direct our lives!

I am not particularly spiritual person and at some point in the book I got a bit overwhelmed because of the extensive stories about Janet and the enlightened. Also some methods introduced in the book (for example, Jyotish) did not resonate with me. Maybe one day those aspects will open up more to me…

However, all in all, I would recommend this book for someone who is looking for his/her life purpose and is not afraid of the occasional spiritual frosting some of the stories are covered with.