happiness

Open Letter to High School Students

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My friend solicited open letters to high school students for a project for work. Here is what I wrote last Friday afternoon. I found that I was really writing it as reminders to myself based on things I’ve recently been thinking about and learning, so in multiple respects it was a great and fun exercise. 

Dear Reader,

We don’t know each other, but some of the best advice I’ve ever received has been from strangers. In fact, everything you’ll read here I’ve learned from others. There are things I think I know now that I wish I knew when I was in high school. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to really hear it, or I didn’t have the context for understanding its relevance. Here are some of the things I wish I started doing earlier, which are as much reminders to myself to do them now as they are advice to you.

Have empathy. You may have heard the phrase “walk in someone else’s shoes.” Empathy is listening to and learning about someone else, and acknowledging their experience as something real and valid even if it is different from your own or you don’t completely understand it. Empathy is not the same as sympathy—a proactive concern and desire to improve the situation of others. (This great animated video demonstrates the distinction between sympathy and empathy.) We should all strive to be more empathetic, and to be open–really open–to listening and learning from everyone around us.  (more…)

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Why Teams Make Us Happy

Scott Belsky of Behance has a great piece on teams, collaboration, and happiness. He quotes ”Hive Psychology, Happiness & Public Policy” by J. Haidt, P. Seder, and S. Kesebir:
(1) “The most effective moral communities – from a well-being perspective – are those that offer occasional experiences in which self-consciousness is greatly reduced and one feels merged with or part of something greater than the self.”
(2) “The self can be an obstacle to happiness (given our inherent limitations as humans!), so people need to lose their selves occasionally by becoming part of an emergent social organism in order to reach the highest level of human flourishing.”
He asks:
“And what is the role of professional networks like Behance in connecting us, and helping us, reach beyond our own resources?”
Networks (such as StartingBloc and YPFP) can help create a team-like environment of like-minded professionals, for creative energy and accountability. The sense of being part of a larger movement and greater cause is the key. 
“Perhaps we reach a higher level of contentment and overall performance by working alongside others, if only from the camaraderie and sensation of being a part of something greater than ourselves?”
Belsky has a nice conclusion that I think many can get behind: 
As creative humans, we tend to always reach beyond our own limits. We want to keep learning and defy past accomplishments. In essence, we want to transcend ourselves. But we are most fulfilled when we push beyond what we can do alone. Whatever our goals, working with others may be the best path to happiness.

Why Teams Make Us Happy