With Wall Street occupied, it seems like a good moment to talk about the Five Ways to Wellbeing.
Why? Because (I just discovered) they originate from the New Economics Foundation, a think tank (or, as they appealingly put it, “a think-and-do tank”) which is coming from a position of “economics as if people and the planet mattered”.
Now, I’m not necessarily endorsing every detail of their agenda, but I am impressed with their overall approach. In particular, I like that they are looking at scientific evidence for what promotes wellbeing, and looking for practical ways that both individuals and governments can increase wellbeing through taking daily action.
I first learned about the 5 Ways to Wellbeing at the Science of Wellbeing conference in September, and it struck me how close they were to what I’d written about in How to be Happy. (I’ve been posting a lot based on that conference lately, and I don’t want to go on and on about positive psychology here indefinitely. After this series of five posts, I have another half-dozen planned, but they’ll be guest posts on other blogs – I’ll link to them from the How to Be Amazing Facebook page as they appear.)
I’m conscious that my posts have been getting very long lately, and there’s a lot to say about the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, so rather than give you one ridiculously enormous post I’m going to split this up and give you five shorter, but still substantial, posts with links to other material. And, of course, as always, I’ll be talking about how to implement in your everyday life.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing are:
- Be Active
- Take Notice
- Keep Learning
So let’s start with Connect.
Connected is the new prominent
Connection is power, as I’ve said here before. I was talking to my wife about this just yesterday. She’s an administrator in a government health organization, and according to the organizational chart, she’s quite low on the totem pole. She has something like four levels of management above her. So to those managers, she doesn’t seem to have much power or be a person they need to listen to.
But if you drew a diagram of who’s connected to whom and who the information flows through – a network instead of a hierarchy – she’d be very central (more central than the managers). The nurses, doctors and other administrators rely on her, and on her colleagues in similar positions, to make things happen. The patients rely on them in order to get their surgeries done. Without their work, the whole enterprise would grind to a halt.
More and more, as we become used to living in a world of networks, we’re realizing that power isn’t necessarily hierarchical. The whole Occupy Wall Street movement is a recognition of that – that the accumulation of wealth at the tops of hierarchies doesn’t reflect where most of the economic value is created (or where most of the system’s intelligence lives).
And as more and more people make their living running businesses online, where the ability to build a network is one of the most important determiners of how well you do, that awareness is only going to spread.
When people’s thinking changes like that, you get new social and political institutions. I wonder what they’ll look like?
How to connect
Connecting to other people meaningfully is work.
Put another way, when you work at it, you can connect to other people meaningfully. But it’s also enjoyable, as this PsyBlog post points out: Stop Being Socially Lazy and Start Enjoying Yourself. It turns out that if we’re making an effort to be our “best self” when talking to someone else, we enjoy the conversation more.
And connection is based on having something in common, whether it’s an interest, a perspective on the world, a way of thinking or an experience. We connect when we recognise each other’s humanity. So one of the first things we do with strangers is try to find a point of connection, a point of commonality.
I remember meeting a guy called Brian at my friend Steve’s place years ago. Steve remarked to me afterwards that he’d been surprised how well I’d been able to connect with Brian, because he wouldn’t have thought we had anything in common. But I found something to talk to Brian about that I’d never talked about with Steve, because Steve wasn’t interested in it.
We all have many facets to ourselves. Keep turning the diamond until one of them sparkles for the other person. At base, we’re all human, so we at least have that in common, however great our other differences.
So, here’s your challenge for this week. Meet and talk to one new person and find a point of connection.
And talk to one person you already know with the kind of attention and awareness that you used to talk to that new person. Notice the difference it makes.
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