Episode 47: WANT TO BE A BETTER LEADER? START BY INCREASING YOUR WELL-BEING?
Do you ever feel like your days are flying by and running into one another? Do you have good intentions about planning for your work but end up being consumed by e-mail and the crisis of the day? Have you wanted to start a work-out regimen but somehow never seem to get around to it? If you are curious about these type of questions, then please join us on Tuesday, August 8th at 1pm EDT for our next Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership. Host, Jeff Smith, will be talking with Dr. Alan Schlechter, who is the co-author of the book UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life. He and co-author, Daniel Lerner, teach the most popular elective class at New York University, The Science of Happiness. We will discuss best practices around well-being, ways to grow your effectiveness and share case studies of leaders who have grown their skills while also enjoying their role more. This will be a fun conversation full of tips and ideas for leaders to implement right after the show!
Alan Schlechter, MD is a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and the director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Services at Bellevue Hospital Center. In his role as Director he treats and helps organize the care of some of the most vulnerable children and families in New York City. Along with Dan Lerner, Alan teaches “The Science of Happiness” to almost 1,000 NYU students each year, in which he shares the mental health education that he believes all people should receive early in life. Alan is interested in using the best science to foster behaviors and thoughts that might help prevent mental illness and grow well-being. In addition to co-authoring U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life), he recently co-edited Becoming Mindful: Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Psychiatric Practice. He is a highly competitive Connect Four player and lives in Greenwich Village with his wonderful wife and two spectacular daughters.
Jeff: Welcome, so glad you could be with us today on Voltcast. It is another great day and it’s been a great getting to work with clients from all around the world and thanks for all the notes and suggestions. Today on the show we’ve got Dr. Alan Schlechter, he’s from NYU I’ll talk about him in just a second. But Alan you want to say hi to our guests? Hello out there?
Putting Alan to the E there, who knows what’s coming back. Let me properly introduce Alan here. He is a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, as well as the Director of the Outpatient Child and Adult Psychiatry Program at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He’s married and he’s got two kids. And what are you Alan; an outrageously talented table tennis aficionado? Is that what I understand?
Alan: I’m getting there.
Jeff: You’re getting there.
Alan: I’m taking lessons.
Jeff: I love it. If you want to get in touch with us today you can call in by calling in at 1-866-472-5788. If you want to email me during the show I’ll be keeping an eye on that it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And during the week our website is voltageleadership.com. And you can like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership or connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting.
So Alan, really happy to be on here, we’re talking about how can you be a better leader? And it starts with your own wellbeing. So I’m maybe just curious, I know you teach this class at NYU with Dan Lerner it’s called the Science of Happiness. It’s NYU’s most popular elective class. When you think about sort of wellbeing, what’s your definition of wellbeing? Let’s get kind of that up top so that people can understand what we’re talking about.
Alan: Well thanks so much for having me on Jeff.
Alan: And I think just having a definition of wellbeing puts most people so much ahead of the pack. But it’s actually something with qualities that many of us share.
So the qualities that I think of have a wonderful acronym which is PERMA. And PERMA is Positive emotions, that’s the P, Positive emotions which is exactly what you think of; happiness, joy, love. Those are really what we call the activated positive emotions. But there are also the ones that we don’t get as much, which are the inactivated positive emotions.
Serenity, calm, tranquility, we actually know that all of the positive emotions are a buffet, but those calm ones; the serenity, the tranquility, they’re the ones that have a huge impact on our immune system on how we feel. You can buy a lot of the happiness to a certain extent.
You can pay for fun, but you can’t pay for calm and tranquility and serenity as much. After positive emotions, the E is Engagement. Engagement is the activities that truly gratify you and fulfill you. Actually Jeff you said this to me once, it lets you know who you are. It’s when you’re doing something and you’re totally absorbed in the process. The R is Relationships.
Relationships consistently throughout research signify the happiest people. The people with the greatest wellbeing, you actually can’t have great wellbeing without good relationships. And of course in my line of field because most of the time I deal with mental illness, we know that people who are isolated become depressed. Think about it, if you put someone in isolation for too long, they lose touch with reality. They become what we call psychotic.
It is considered as torture to put someone into isolation. So that’s the P, that’s the E, that’s the R. M is Meaning. Now again meaning is what those words, what people say, “Well that could mean a million things”. But there’s actually a very good definition. Meaning is what matters to us. It’s what makes sense to us.
And what’s meaningful for us, gives us the springboard for our purpose in life. So kids mean a lot to us and particularly me. Helping children means a lot to me. And this gave me the springboard for my life, personally and professionally. I have kids who I love very much, but it’s also my mission at Bellevue. How do I help kids get better?
And finally the last one is A, it’s Accomplishment, that feeling that we’ve accomplished something can be important to us at work. But it can also for me recently I feel like I’ve been improving as a father a lot mostly through the strong advice of my wife Carmen. And that’s where I’m feeling really accomplished right now that I didn’t lose my cool. I was literally just saying to my wife, I was really happy I didn’t lose my cool with my kids this morning.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Alan: That’s PERMA in a nutshell. And if you can just have those, so Martin Seligman is the one who developed this out of the University of Pennsylvania. He’s called the Father of Positive Psychology. And this is his acronym PERMA, and if you have a drop in each of those buckets, he would say, “You are flourishing.”
Jeff: I love it. So I love it, as many of the audience will know I’ve got a daughter going off to Duke here in about two weeks, in fact two weeks from today at 1:30 we’ll be moving her in.
One minute everything is joyful the next moment you’re like, “Wow this is a new growth opportunity for me.” Thank you for the definition and maybe swing us over a little bit to your class now The Science of Happiness. What made you and Dan really think that this is a topic you want to teach? And maybe bring us into the classroom for this part of the discussion. And then in the next segment of the show we’ll start digging a little bit deeper. But why the interest in this as a topic and why do you think it’s still popular?
Alan: Well, I think that I had spent four years in Medical School, a year doing research in Alzheimer’s disease, and I spent then three years of adult psychiatry training in my residency. Then two years of my training just focusing on children and adolescents. So I spent 10 years studying what was wrong and how to get rid of what was wrong.
And to approach patients with the question you get asked when you go to your doctor, “What’s your chief complaint? What’s your problem? What brings you in here today? And it better be bad.” And I felt like patients I could help them get rid of what’s bad but I didn’t see them thriving, and I didn’t see them flourishing.
And I often saw them getting rid of what’s bad but coming back to the same place. And it really goes back to a central pennon in the field of Positive Psychology that the absence of unhappiness is not equal to happiness. And in our society where we have life and liberty and the right to pursue happiness, it was a very wise thing to say.
It is something that needs the pursuit. And I felt like I didn’t have the language for it. So I got very interested in the subject. If in internal medicine, you lower somebody’s blood pressure, they’re less likely to have a stroke. You lower somebody’s cholesterol and they’re less likely to have a heart attack. And I started to think, “What things could you promote in someone that would actually help them prevent depression, reduce anxiety and help them flourish?”
So I got very interested in that and I connected with Dan Lerner who has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology. Actually the truth is I started teaching the course without him and he came in and he watched me one day. And he pointed out that I was teaching happiness like a doctor, and spending about 70% of my time focusing on how we overcome challenges and not on how we build our wellness.
And he joined me and he said, “Do you know what you really need?” and I said, “What?” he said, “You need me. You need me to teach this class with you.” I said, “You know what, I think you’re right.” And it’s been a ton of fun, it’s much more fun teaching with someone else because you can get real feedback and they push you. So we started building, now we teach about 1000 students a year.
And it’s really been this remarkable thing. So now class is about 30%. Look, the class still has 30 to 35% is about how you overcome challenges. We teach people about cognitive behavioral therapy, we teach about resilience, how to overcome and experience traumas in life.
The majority of the class is about thriving. So when we teach about sleep, we teach people to sleep well because it is a cognitive enhancer. Not just because it is a cure for sleepiness.
Alan: If we want to teach somebody the value of eating well, I’m going to point out how when you eat well, you’re actually going to have the willpower. How it’s going to affect your brain so that you’re actually going to learn better later on in the day, and have more energy. Not, when most people think of a diet they think, “Okay I’m going to get rid of the cheese burger,” as opposed to, “What am I going to eat that’s really healthy?”
Jeff: Well and here’s where I’m going to take you Alan, I love it, I love the intentionality. And I’m feeling better about the broccoli and cauliflower that I had right before I came on. So I’m feeling good, I feel alert. And we’re coming up for a break here. So I think after the break where I want to go is, how do we start building this wellness?
You’re starting to give us some suggestions. What else I want to do is make sure that you guys know Alan and Dan wrote a book together called UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life. And it’s outstanding and not just for folks that are like me, that are sending off a child to college. They have fantastic recommendations in here.
And wonderful tools, we may get to whoop later on in the day so stay tuned for that. But what I’d really encourage folks again it’s UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life by Daniel Lerner and Alan Schlechter and it’s an outstanding book that I’m sure Alan will give us a little bit more on later in the show. He’ll be with us the entire show. So if you’d like to email us or give us a call, we’ll be here. In the meantime we’ll be back in two minutes.
Jeff: Welcome back. We’ve got Dr. Alan Schlechter on the show today. Alan is a friend, and an author, and an outstanding clinician as well. And Alan is going to be with us today talking a lot about things from his book, UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life, as well as what he has been working on and teaching in the classroom at NYU in the class called The Science of Happiness.
So before the break Alan, I kind of teed off this thought of you’ve talked about, how do we build our wellness? And that’s really important. So as you’re working with folks, whether students or your patients how do you go about getting them to start thinking about building wellness? I hadn’t really heard that term, and that really caught me by surprise I’m like, “That’s a great way of thinking about it.” so how do you work with folks to build wellness?
Alan: There’s a lot of psychoeducation. First of all that’s a great question because that is exactly what it is, it’s building. And I’d say there’s a lot of scaffolding that goes in and that would be the education. We all think of yeah it’s good to have more fun in your life.
But actually there’s these amazing studies, a variety of them that show that having a lot of positive emotions; joy, serenity, calm. Not only are you experiencing more happiness, the people who experience high levels live longer. They have better relationships; they have significantly better achievement at work in the work environment.
And one of the reasons that this comes about has to do with positive emotions do very specific things to our brains. There’s a neuroscience behind what happiness does to us. So the first thing people have to understand, and particularly a lot of people come to me with negative emotions and they just want to get rid of the negative emotions; anger, fear, sadness.
But positive emotions and negative emotions do two very different things for us. Negative emotions kept us alive for thousands of years. Without the negative emotions we wouldn’t have known to run away from the tigers couple of hundred thousand years ago. Positive emotions on the other hand, they’re what connect us with other people.
They quite literally help us see the bigger picture. In a study where they showed people a group of images with a very strong image in the forefront a picture of someone’s face, and in the background there was a picture of a home. They split up the group. Half the group was primed with positive emotions.
This is as simple as spend 30 seconds thinking about your happiest thought. And when they did that and they said, “What did you see in the center of the picture?” Both groups were able to say, “Oh I saw a face.” When they said, “What did you see in the background?” The group that was not primed with positive emotions didn’t have a significant recall.
The majority of the people who were primed with positive emotions were able to say, “Oh I think it was a house, there was something in the background and I know what it is.” This has led to Barbara Fredrickson down at the University of North Carolina and one of my most favorite admired researchers, called the-
Jeff: You know she’s in Tokyo. We’ll let it go yeah that’s okay. It sounds good keep going.
Alan: So she talked about it, it’s called The Broaden-and-Build Theory. That while negative emotions; anger, sadness, they call us to narrow and constrict and focus on the minute details. If I ask you what’s getting you down, that’s all you’re going to talk about. But when you’re feeling a lot of positive emotion, our ability to compromise increases.
It’s our ability to see the bigger picture. In a great study done on doctors in 1997, they took a group interns, they gave them a list of symptoms and asked them to diagnose. But again they split them up into two groups. One group they gave a bag of candy and they said, “After you’re done you’re going to get to eat this candy, share it with your friends, bring it home to your kids.”
They were thrilled. They didn’t get to eat the candy that would have messed up the study. The group that was given the candy was 20% more accurate. It’s a hard time in medicine even though I love what I do; I love being a doctor.
Doctors need to be primed with positive emotions. Not only did they diagnose more accurately, they did something called anchoring. So doctors if they have a specific thing that they’re interested in, let’s say you’re a cardiologist, I can could come to you with a common cold, but if you’re a cardiologist I’m probably going to end up getting an Echo before I leave your office.
You’re like, “Let’s just do a stress test just to make sure.” But when people are primed with positive emotions they’re almost less stuck in the mud, stuck in the past. And they’re more willing to deal with whatever is in front of them and present.
Jeff: Yeah so how do you teach your students, your patients to actually do that? So I like the Broaden-and-Build, do you have a tip or two you offer to folks?
Alan: Well there are a few, everything in our class and everything in our book that’s my plug for the hour-everything in that book seems to be executed. So it’s not just a platitude, there is an exercise at the end of every chapter. Because there are a few things that we know we can do, very concrete things that will actually increase our positive emotions.
And as long they continue those activities, their wellbeing stays elevated. So one of the activities that I really love has to do with gratitude. So we hear a lot of talk about gratitude. Gratitude is truly the most pro-social emotion that we have. It is like glue, it connects us all.
You can exercise it. People who wrote down the three things they’re grateful for at the end of the day, showed a significant increase in their wellbeing. As long as this continued, their wellbeing maintains the same elevation.
I think something I was recently asked, “Are there certain things that are better to be grateful about?” I don’t have an answer to that but I have certainly noticed the people who use this exercise the most successfully are the ones who really search for those things. They spend just five minutes really thinking what was it.
Because on any day I’m grateful that we had some cedar left in the cheese-cedar left in the fridge so I had some cedar with my lunch today. That’s nice it makes my lunch better. But what I’m really grateful for is that my wife was able to help me this morning get Marlow, my youngest daughter out on time.
Or what I was really grateful for was a colleague at work who handled a crisis, which gave me the time to deal with something else. Finding gratitude for other people is probably a bit more meaningful and may have a bigger impact.
Jeff: I think that yeah I was just thinking about being grateful for good positions. I had a knee challenge and being able to be cleared up relatively easily, I’m doing much better. And I found myself each morning really being grateful to be able to get out and get a run. And too months ago when I was no problems, I wasn’t grateful for my health. It was just like yeah I’m getting up and going to run.
But then when it’s not working, and I got to tell you like my mood has just really improved by being able to get out there, sweat a little bit. Also to know, hey my health is in good shape because of somebody else, I really appreciated that.
Alan: There are two other exercises that I think are, what everybody has to know is that if one exercise doesn’t connect with you, there’s going to be an exercise that does connect with you. So for some people maybe gratitude is already a big part of your life, because actually Jeff I think of you as a grateful person.
But even of gratitude isn’t a big part of your life, another exercise was done in a similar study style is the Random Acts Of Kindness. This was developed by Lyubomirsky, who had people do the five acts of kindness over the course of three days. So you do five acts of kindness each day for three days in a row.
They tried it in a variety of numbers but really pushing yourself to think about your acts of kindness, become really aware not only again does it elevate you to you feel like you’re contributing, it feels meaningful. But hopefully you end up with a little bit of gratitude as well.
Jeff: I like it. We probably have time, if we got about a minute and a half before the break. Do you know the other tool off the top of your head or you want me to come back to that?
Alan: Oh the character strength.
One other tool I would highly recommend and you can go to viacharacter.org. And that allows you to find out about your character strength. Your character strengths, when you use them are what help you feel really engaged in life.
And if you can use them in noble ways every day, like for me my highest character strength is curiosity. And if I make sure that I use my curiosity every day, getting to know a new person, reading an article I’ve wanted to read. By the way today, getting on the radio with you Jeff.
Jeff: Whoop! Whoop!
Alan: And then that also seems to have a huge increase in people’s wellbeing. And that will maintain itself as long as I keep challenging my curiosity.
Jeff: So we are getting ready to go to our second break here. So I love this gratitude idea, maybe writing out a gratitude letter and presenting it to someone that’s had a meaningful impact on your life. Random acts of kindness, five acts over three days. Five acts each day for three days, that’s pretty amazing stuff. It will lead to better wellbeing. Right now we’ve got to take a two-minute break and we’ll come back with some more ideas about your wellbeing.
Jeff: Welcome back and glad you could be here with us. We’ve had Alan Schlechter on the show today. He and Dan Lerner are the authors of UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life, and they both the most popular elective class at NYU called The Science of Happiness. So Alan, one of our questions that we’ve gotten in here is around, why is it important for a leader to care about wellbeing?
So we’re talking a lot about sort of the individual but why is it essential for a leader and you and I were talking a little bit about the break maybe we can also go into some examples of leaders with good wellbeing and maybe some without good wellbeing. So first off why is it important?
Alan: It’s such a wonderful question Jeff because we know many leaders who do not have wellbeing. We can think of them, famous leaders. And whether it’s Steve Jobs, you can think of a lot of people also when you’re talking about really great leadership about people just in general who develop excellence in what they’re doing.
Who’re able to display their expertise and some people do it with wellbeing and some people do it without wellbeing. But then we have people who’re able to develop great excellence and leadership and I think of Richard Branson and I think of Warren Buffett who is famous for developing tremendous businesses but always placing wellbeing, community.
The sense of his willing to support his community, the United States, his dedication to his community has always been about him. So you can have both. I think my argument would be that you’re actually much more likely to develop great leadership when you’re carrying with you wellbeing.
And when you’re carrying with you really a passion that I think of as harmonious. And that’s been one of the areas I’ve been really lucky to listen to Dan talk about. It’s something he’s very interested in, is this idea of harmonious passion versus obsessive passion. Has anybody talked about this on your show Jeff?
Jeff: No, I’m curious I think I can imagine some of the not so great passions I see that are out there. Like some of my friends that play golf like seven days a week and barely connect with family. But fill us in.
Alan: No, that’s exactly it. You’ve got it. And it’s actually once you think about it it’s really intuitive. But the science behind studying passion right where I say passion that’s an intense desire, or it’s an enthusiasm for something. And a leader leads hopefully with a certain degree of passion to inspire those around them which is I would say one of the defining words of a leader.
When you compare a leader to a manger, a leader is supposed to use more inspiration. And a harmonious passion is something that you do because you love it, because it’s just a part of your life. You do it to learn, not just to win. You’re in control.
So whether it’s golf, the people who can play one round in the morning and then they can go home to their family, versus the person who plays a round, has a quick bite to eat plays another round and at the end of the weekend they’re thinking, “Maybe I should have spent more time with my family.”
Alan: That’s an obsessive passion; it is your whole life. We see this in leaders, as well is you’re doing it for others, you’re doing it for status, for glory or for money. You’re going to be the best or you’re going to be nothing. And that goes the same for your employees that the passion controls you.
So the really interesting thing when they studied and there is a fellow named Vallerand who studied passion. The really interesting thing about passion is that when you have a harmonious passion, you’re much more likely to experience wellbeing. You’re happier, your relationships are happy.
So I’m going to throw myself at it, you mentioned how much I love Ping-Pong before. I love Ping-Pong, I love playing with my kids. I love my work in Bellevue I love teaching kids at NYU. I love my wife, I love all of these things and I do my best as best as anybody can do to make time for all of them.
And I’ve always noticed that when one area becomes too dominant, if Bellevue takes over my life and I don’t have the minimum of what I need with my kids every day, I need two hours with my kids every day, I find myself feeling less energetic. Feeling less productive and actually there’s a lot of science behind that.
That people when their passions shift to becoming obsessive they are less energetic, they’re less productive. Ironically, the way people develop excellence in general, the way you want all of your employees to develop excellence is to do something called deliberate practice.
But in a study done by Vallerand in 2007, people with obsessive passions actually have a much more difficult time staying on task. They’re far more likely to burn out. They’re much more self-destructive.
Alan: Yoga instructors who’re like, “I’m going to be the best yogi out there,” and they’re doing yoga 10 hours a day and not having any other part of their life. They’re more likely to injure themselves. They actually have more negative emotions.
So that idea of you can be Steve Jobs, where he gave up his family, he disowned the daughter. Although I think eventually he accepted her into his life. He did that and we saw him, he was still able to develop excellence but what I would question is whether actually he missed his real potential.
That actually if he’s had wellbeing and he’d had those positive emotions. Yo-Yo Ma, one of the great cellists living right now, one of my favorite quotes of his: The only reason to play is for pleasure. Richard Branson, he loves his passions but it was what they help him do in other areas of his life.
Jeff: Well I think for this over caffeinated sort of audience that I’ve probably got that are leaders they’re craving to do better, the kind of thought as I was listening to you is variety is the spice of life.
And it’s kind of like part of what you’re saying is putting in three extra hours week over week over week to work on Sunday to get a PowerPoint presentation ready and hand it down to the integrin, at some point that adds up to you in comparison of maybe it is a walk in the woods, or it is a hobby that you do with your kids.
I had to play nine holes of golf with my two boys on Saturday morning. We went out and played these nine holes of golf and I got to tell you I didn’t think about work at all one time. It was just really connecting with the kids. Phil, my 13-year-old got his first real par like three shots on a par, three in the hole.
Jeff: He was very excited. And what I found was that so far Monday and Tuesday this week I have like had such good insights and things are just flowing. Because I think that over the last couple of weeks I’ve really connected in different ways with my kids, with a couple of my passions. And it’s funny how I hadn’t put my finger on the variety of I’m not spread too thin.
But the things I’m really intentional about spending my time on right now are bringing such pleasure and joy that I see my work getting better too. But I’m not concentrating on the work right now as hard. So I think it’s a testament to what you’re speaking of.
Alan: That’s exactly it Jeff. And I really think the biggest comparison that was popping up in my head as you were talking, is anybody who has kids, when we meet other people who don’t have kids and they tell us they’re so busy, and we go, “Oh that’s really tough.” But inside we’re smiling and we’re laughing because we’re thinking, “You don’t have children, you have no idea what busy is.”
And that feeling that I think often in life when we’re feeling really overwhelmed or burned out, that it means that we have to cut back on things. And actually the answer in many cases I find is actually it’s just that we need to have different activities in our lives.
It’s actually how I started taking Ping-Pong lessons was I hurt my wrist and I stopped playing tennis and squash which I really loved. And I’d been without a support for over a year and I was feeling pretty tired at work. And I said, “You know the E of PERMA, engagement, I didn’t have that in my life anymore.
So I started taking Ping-Pong lessons. But then I found myself reinvigorated in every way at work as well. When we have engagement outside of work, we’re actually more likely to come back to work and be engaged.
Jeff: So Alan a couple of things from this segment, think about harmonious passion, study obsession, obsessive passion. And I think that many of us get kind of wrapped around the axle at work sometimes with that obsessive passion. There is some truth to this deliberate practice as well.
What are we doing to learn something well and master it? But don’t let it overrun your life. And often one of the things that I think about a lot is I talk about an exercise of what’s my day going to be like? So before I get out of bed I pick a word for the day so that I can be intentional.
So earlier you used the curiosity, many days curiosity is one of mine. Sometimes it’s inspirational if I’m giving a speech or can be calm if I know I’ve got a heavy day of client coaching. So that I’m calm so I can be present for the other person. So at present we’re up against a break. So what we’ll do is we’re going to take a two minute break, come back for the last segment.
Alan: That is so good.
Jeff: Yeah, come back for our last segment where we’ll give our top tips and tools around wellbeing to the audience. So we’ll talk to you in two.
Jeff: Welcome back and thanks for spending part of your day with us. We’ve had Dr. Alan Schlechter on the show today, sorry about that I’m kind of blending it all together. Alan and Dan Lerner are both authors of UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life.
And they’re professors that teach the most popular class at NYU that is called The Science of Happiness. So Alan we’ve been talking all along about sort of how do we work on our wellbeing, how do we as leaders grow ourselves? I love during the break we had a conversations about one of the things you’re discovering about yourself is keeping friendships first.
I’ve got a business trip tomorrow and normally I just go down and back. And I was intentional about saying, “I’m going to leave an hour earlier and go have lunch with a friend instead of just going and doing the work.
So I think that that’s a really important part of a leader is having relationships outside the workplace that keep you sane. So one of the questions that came in that you and I have banged around a little bit, do I have to be passionate about my job? Do I have to love my job to be successful? So maybe we can address that a little bit.
Alan: That’s such a big question right now. I think when you look in the media, a lot of media and certainly if you watch any sitcoms, everybody wants their job to be a perfect representation of who they are. And that’s simply not the case and it doesn’t have to be in any way.
But what’s really important for people and it’s the value of developing wellbeing as a leader, when you have activities outside of work that engage you. And when I say passionate I mean you spend eight hours a week. When I look at people who have passion they spend eight hours a week doing this either at work or outside of work.
So let’s say I love playing table tennis I can easily play eight hours of table tennis a week. And when people have that, they find that even though they may not be as passionate about their work, their passion in their work increases. Their ability to stay focused and their desire to really commit to setting goals and improving themselves at work increases.
And eventually you just to want to improve yourself in all areas of life. So I think it’s really wonderful when our passions coincide with our work. And actually somebody was just telling me a really fascinating story about Jim Carey. He’s actually a really wonderful artist he loves to paint.
But he realized at some point in his life that although he really loved to paint and he was passionate about it, he felt that as a comedian he was going to be more successful. And he also had a feeling within himself that he didn’t want to make money off of his painting. So he pursued comedy but he’s always continued to paint and painting has been a big part of his life.
Jeff: I did not know that, thanks for sharing.
Well we’re sort of in the wrap up phase here. I couple of the things that you’ve presented to us are great. This doing gratitude every day, a gratitude letter, writing a note to somebody. I highly recommended that. When I was about 30 years I wrote the top 10 people that had influenced my life to that point and I wrote them a letter.
And I let them see, I wrote a paragraph or so on each person and everybody that was on my list, I gave them everyone else’s information too. And it was just really interesting. While it was great for me and it me feel wonderful and brought tears, it was even more moving to see how I was able to help other people connect with each other.
And the only common denominator was me and the network and the excitement. So I think a gratitude letter is fantastic or taking a moment each day to think about three things that you’re grateful for or people you’re grateful for.
As well as these ideas of taking time to do random acts of kindness, maybe five random acts of kindness for like three days and see what happens. Is there anything in the last couple of minutes of the show here that you’d want us to know that you suggest?
Alan: I’d throw in one more exercise.
Jeff: Please do.
Alan: That was one of Christopher Peterson’s who’s one the kind of founding voices of Positive Psychology. And I think it doesn’t have as much evidence base but I’ve used it with a lot of my students and gotten a lot out of it. And what you do is you create a journal, a lot of Positive Psychology is journaling so you can sort of reflect on yourself.
And keep a journal of the things that make you feel best in any day and do that for one month. And when I did I stopped after three weeks. It was so clear to me what made my days good and the things that could make my day good that I could have every day. So what I call my three good things are that I spend at least two hours with my kids every day.
That I meditate for 20 minutes and the third thing that made my day good was not when I finish 50 emails but when I cross something off my list. Like when something was completely done like today my thing to cross off my list is to finish my syllabus for next semester. So if I can just cross one thing off my list every day, meditate for 20 minutes, and spend two hours with my kids and family, no matter what else happens in the day, it gives me that feeling.
Now by the way many of my students always come back to me and they’re looking at their list of three good things. And they say, “Somebody tells me that I’m attractive.” And I say, “Well that’s not something that happens to me every day.”
Jeff: Oh come on Alan, it happens every day come on.
Alan: My wife will occasionally tell me I’m attractive but maybe not every day. And she’s in the background now so this is a real hint to her. So that idea of things that we control because the truth is in life we control very little.
Anything can happen but making that intention to do the three things that you know make you feel good every day, truly good. I also I think I’m against that Snicker bar also makes me feel good but that goes into the category of cheatinsm it makes you feel good for a moment but then you come back.
Jeff: Oh Alan, thank you so much for being on the show. So it has been a joy and honor to get to work with Alan both professional and consider him a friend. So Alan he’s the good-looking version of the UThrive authors here. Is that what I was supposed to say?
Jeff: So we’ve got Alan Schlechter again his book is UThrive: How to Succeed in College and Life. Next week on the show we’re going to have Joanne Loce, so Alan knows Joanne as well, and we’re going to be talking about succession planning and talent development. And how do you grow your business hopefully to be as successful as possible and have the talent to match the strategies that you need?
So Joanne and I will be covering that topic next week. Again during the week if you want to reach out to us it’s email@example.com. You can find us on voltageleadership.com we’ll be posting so if you want to go back and listen to it. And then I’ve written a couple of blogs about this topic.
So stay tuned, come out to the voltageleadership.com they post on Mondays and we’ll make sure that we follow up. So Alan again thanks again for being on the show and look forward to talking to you again soon.
Alan: Thanks so much Jeff, this is wonderful.
Jeff: Great. And to everyone else, next week again Joanne and I will be on the show at one o’clock Eastern. Please feel free to shoot us an email with any thoughts or questions. In the meantime, make it a great week and we’ll look forward to talking to you next week.