Tag effort

“Play is a way of being that resists the instrumental, expedient mode of existence” …*

 

"Play is a way of being that resists the instrumental, expedient mode of existence" ...* | rethinked.org -Photo: Elsa Fridman

Right in time for the weekend here is a lovely meditation on the intrinsic power of active play from an opinion piece published last month on the New York Times by professor of philosophy and fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture at Columbia College Chicago, Stephen T. Asthma. Asthma divides play into two categories: amusements and active play, which are very much aligned with Martin Seligman’s categories of the pleasures–fast, cheap and ephermeral joys–and the gratifications, which are activities that fulfill us and build a sort of positive emotional capital. A welcome reminder that play is its own reward and a critical component of a full, engaging and meaningful human life.

p l a y   f o r   p l a y ‘ s   s a k e   &   r e t h i n k   . . .

Usually, if we see an appreciation of play, it’s an attempt to show its secret utility value — “See, it’s pragmatic after all!” See how playing music makes you smarter at other, more valued forms of thinking, like math, logic or even business strategy? See how play is adaptive for social evolution? All this is true of course, but one also wonders about the uniquely human meaning of play and leisure. Can we consider play and leisure as something with inherent value, independent of their accidental usefulness?

[ … ]

I want to suggest that we divide play into two major categories; active and passive. The passive forms — let’s call them amusements — are indeed suspicious, as they seem to anesthetize the agent and reduce creative engagement. From our “bread and circuses” television culture to Aldous Huxley’s soma culture in “Brave New World,” the passive forms of leisure are cheap pleasures that come at no effort, skill or struggle. On the other hand, active play — everything from sport to music to chess, and even some video games — energizes the agent and costs practice, skill, effort and calories. Even the exploration of conscious inner-space, through artificial or natural means, can be very active. The true cultures of meditation, for example, evidence the rigors of inner-space play.

[ … ]

The stakes for play are higher than we think. Play is a way of being that resists the instrumental, expedient mode of existence. In play, we do not measure ourselves in terms of tangible productivity (extrinsic value), but instead, our physical and mental lives have intrinsic value of their own. It provides the source from which other extrinsic goods flow and eventually return.

When we see an activity like music as merely a “key to success,” we shortchange it and ourselves. Playing a musical instrument is both the pursuit of fulfillment and the very thing itself (the actualizing of potential). Playing, or even listening, in this case, is a kind of unique, embodied contemplation that can feed both the mind and the body.

When we truly engage in such “impractical” leisure activities — with our physical and mental selves — we do so for the pleasure they bring us and others, for the inherent good that arises from that engagement, and nothing else.

Source: Reclaiming the Power of Play

{ Keep Going } The First Rule of Anything Creative: Forgive Yourself For the Horror of the First Draft …*

Here’s a little creative inspiration for your Tuesday in the form of this lovely animation from The School of Life on the need to overcome “the horror of the first draft” and just keep putting in the work to slowly bridge the gap between our vision and what we are producing.

This video reminded me of Ira Glass’s advice:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that all of us who do creative work, you know we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s a gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great, it’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart, is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing what to do is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it now, if you’re just getting out of that phase, you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that, ok?

– Ira Glass

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

rethink, work, create …*

thoughts on { grit } : sustained perseverance & passion …*

This past week I had the opportunity to hear Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, speak about her wildly popular construct, grit. As Elsa summarized in a post back in 2013, grit is “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” More importantly, her research indicates that people who have grit are more successful professionally and academically, and that having “grit” is more important than having mere high ability. In her talk at Teachers College, she discussed the nuances of this term and explained how it leads to success.

image from www.biggestjob.com

What is grit?

To understand what grit is, it is important to understand what it is NOT. It is NOT self-control, which is an important ability in momentary conflicts. Grit instead is the disposition to pursue challenging, long-term goals.

Grit involves stamina of both effort and interest. Gritty people persevere in the face of setbacks and obstacles and understand the importance of sustained hard work. However, they also have stamina of interests and passion: their interests are focused and stable. A gritty person will not abandon a goal in pursuit of something new and exciting.

This idea is not new. As Prof. Duckworth explained in her talk, Francis Galton and Charles Darwin were describing a similar thing back in the 1800s. As Darwin explained in a letter to Galton, “…I have always maintained that… men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work…”

How does grit lead to achievement? 80% of success in life is showing up

Duckworth explains the relationship between grit and achievement using the formula:

Achievement = f (talent x effort)

She compares this to the formula for distance, (distance = speed x time), with the idea that some people learn things very quickly (speed or talent) but only through cumulative learning (time or effort) can knowledge be accumulated.

As can be seen in the slide I photographed during her talk, one’s skill at something is a function of deliberate practice, and around 10 years of this sort of practice is necessary to reach mastery levels.

IMG_5434 (2)

Duckworth finds that people who are gritty do deliberate practice of their craft, which is characterized by:

  1. having a specific stretch goal
  2. concentrating 100%
  3. immediate, informative feedback
  4. practicing repetitively until fluency

In other words, experts know what they are working on, and they put on their blinders when working on it. Deliberate practice is often hard and rarely fun.

Future directions…*

Future directions for this research include looking at various ways to build grit, investigating how social supports relate to grit, and determining whether communities can build a culture of grit.

 I’d like to talk a bit more about this idea of grit, and what I like and don’t like about it over the next few weeks. For instance, when do you give up? How long should one doggedly pursue a singular goal if one’s effort are fruitless? Additionally, we should think about times when having a diversity of passion is useful, such as for creative endeavors.

Until next time…*

Carol Dweck on Helping Kids Move From the Tyranny of Now Into the Power of Yet …*

In this short TEDx talk, psychologist Carol Dweck gives an overview of her research on the power of mindset to facilitate or hinder children’s capacity to connect with and activate their potential. The ways in which children frame and cope with challenges and difficulties have enormous implications on their ability to thrive. Students with a fixed mindset are prisoners to the tyranny of the now, believing that each challenge is a reflection of a fixed level of a given capacity–be it intelligence, creativity or athleticism. Meanwhile, students with a growth mindset luxuriate in the power of yet, understanding that each new challenge is an opportunity to learn something new and to practice and refine skills. Dweck shares some tips and strategies for helping students move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset–praising process rather than intelligence to help students redefine things like effort and difficulty, for example.

watch & rethink …* 

{ The Good Life vs. the Pleasant Life } Building Psychological Capital By Investing In Experiences That Produce Flow …*

{ The Good Life vs. the Pleasant Life } Building Psychological Capital By Investing In Experiences That Produce Flow ...* | rethinked.org

Last week, I wrote about the different types of happiness in the present: the pleasures and the gratifications and dove into various ways to enhance and amplify the pleasure in one’s life. Today, let’s focus on the gratifications, specifically on how they differ from the pleasures. The distinction is important as it frames the difference between the ‘Good Life” and the “Pleasant Life”–a life of growth and authenticity versus a life of ephemeral pleasures.

PSYCHOLOGICAL COMPONENTS OF THE GRATIFICATIONS

While the pleasures are about the surging of positive emotions, the gratifications are characterized by a complete lack of emotion– a full immersion in the moment and lack of self-consciousness. As I mentioned in my post last week, what Seligman calls the gratifications is, essentially, interchangeable with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s concept of flow

From Csikszentmihalyi’s research, we know that the experience of the gratifications/flow is characterized by the following components:

  • The task is challenging and requires skill
  • We concentrate
  • There are clear goals
  • We get immediate feedback
  • We have deep, effortless involvement
  • There is a sense of control
  • Our sense of self vanishes
  • Time stops (116)

PLEASURES AS CONSUMPTION, GRATIFICATIONS AS GROWTH – A THEORY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL CAPITAL

Seligman makes a fascinating analogy with the field of economics, suggesting that in the same way that we can accrue economic capital – “resources that are withdrawn from consumption and invested in the future for higher anticipated returns,” we may be endowed with a capacity for accruing psychological capital. And the way in which we build this psychological capital is through pursuing the gratifications.

When we engage in pleasures, we are perhaps just consuming. The smell of perfume, the taste of raspberries, and the sensuality of a scalp rub are all high momentary delights, but they do not build anything for the future. They are not investments, nothing is accumulated. In contrast, when we are engaged (absorbed in flow), perhaps we are investing, building psychological capital for our future. Perhaps flow is the state that marks psychological growth. Absorption, the loss of consciousness, and the stopping of time may be evolution’s way of telling us that we are stocking up psychological resources for the future. In this analogy, pleasure marks the achievement of biological satiation, whereas gratification marks the achievement of psychological growth. (117)

I find this idea of psychological capital growing from engaging with activities that produce flow rather intuitive, but Seligman backs it up with research:

Flow is a frequent experience for some people, but this state visits many others only rarely if at all. In one of Mike’s [ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ] studies, he tracked 250 high-flow and 250 low-flow teenagers. The low-flow teenagers are “mall” kids; they hang out at malls and they watch television a lot. The high-flow kids have hobbies, they engage in sports, and they spend a lot of time on homework. On every measure of psychological well-being (including self-esteem and engagement) save one, the high-flow teenagers did better. The exception is important: the high-flow kids think their low-flow peers are having more fun, and say they would rather be at the mall doing all those “fun” things or watching television. But while all the engagement they have is not perceived as enjoyable, it pays off later in life. The high-flow kids are the ones who make it to college, who have deeper social ties, and whose later lives are more successful. This all fits Mike’s theory that flow is the state that builds psychological capital that can be drawn on in years to come. (117)

THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD QUESTION: ASKING “WHAT IS THE GOOD LIFE?” RATHER THAN “HOW CAN I BE HAPPY?” 

To summarize, we now know that there are two very different qualities of happiness in the present: the pleasures and the gratifications. Further, we know that the former produces evanescent positive emotion while the latter builds up our psychological capital. Back-rubs and pumpkin pie are wonderful and should be savored, but if we want to grow our psychological reserves we need to be seeking out and creating experiences for ourselves that produce flow. Yet, so many of us routinely choose the pleasures over the gratifications–spending our evenings mindlessly flipping through the channels instead of writing a story, painting a portrait or otherwise engaging in activities that require the activation of our strengths. This is a question of motivation, the pleasures are cheap and easily accessible while the gratifications require effort and hold the possibility of failure and stress:

To start the process of eschewing easy pleasure and engaging in more gratification is hard. The gratifications produce flow, but they require skill and effort; even more deterring is the fact that because they meet challenges, they offer the possibility of failing. Playing three sets of tennis, or participating in a clever conversation, or reading Richard Russo takes work—at least to start. The pleasures do not: watching a sitcom, masturbating and inhaling perfume are not challenging. Eating a buttered bagel or viewing televised football on Monday night requires no effort and little skill, and there is no possibility of failure.  (119)

But if we want a full life, a life of growth and directed change, we must be willing to endure and, in fact, seek out the challenges that produce flow:

Such people [those seeking the pleasures exclusively] ask, “How can I be happy?” This is the wrong question, because without the distinction between pleasure and gratification it leads all too easily to a total reliance on shortcuts, to a life of snatching up as many easy pleasures as possible. I am not against the pleasures; indeed, this entire chapter has set out advice on how to increase pleasures (as well as the entire panoply of positive emotions) in your life. I detailed the strategies under your voluntary control that are likely to move your level of positive emotion into the upper part of your set range of happiness: gratitude, forgiveness, and escaping the tyranny of determinism to increase positive emotions about the past; learning hope and optimism through disputing to increase positive emotions about the future; and breaking habituation, savoring, and mindfulness to increase the pleasures of the present. (120)

When an entire life is taken up in the pursuit of the positive emotions, however, authenticity and meaning are nowhere to be found. The right question is the one Aristotle posed two thousand and five hundred years ago: “What is the good life?” My main purpose in marking the gratifications off from the pleasures is to ask this great question anew, then provide a fresh and scientifically grounded answer. My answer is tied up in the identification and the use of your signature strengths. (121)

We’ll examine the signature strengths next Tuesday–what they are, how to identify them and how to build them up.

*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

{ Growth Mindset } The One Thing I Wish I’d Learned A Decade Ago …*

{ Growth Mindset } The One Thing I Wish I'd Learned A Decade Ago ...* | rethinked.org

Last week I wrote about a question- What’s the one thing that you learned in the last decade that you had wished someone had told you 10 years ago?– that Wooster Collective posed to several graffiti artists and curated some of my favorite responses. I’ve been thinking about how this question applies to my own experience of the past ten years and started brainstorming a list of possible key insights. After sitting with my list for a bit, I realized that most of the items on it were directly related to the concept of growth mindset, championed by Carol Dweck. Growth mindset is the belief that capacities—whether intellectual, emotional, physical, etc.–can be learned and acquired with effort over time. That potential is unknowable. Thinking back on the past ten years, I have no doubt that if I had known about and embraced a growth mindset, I would have saved myself much heartache and worry. I would likely have taken more chances and been more compassionate and patient with myself and others. I wouldn’t have been so bogged down by an unattainable quest for perfection, which means I would have procrastinated a lot less and not engaged in as many other self-sabotaging behaviors to save myself from facing my crippling fear of failure. I would likely have been able to keep things more in perspective. Learning about the growth mindset was an utterly transformative experience for me. It allowed me to translate what I know about motivation, effort, and goal-setting into tangible behaviors. But most importantly it has set me free emotionally—free to experiment and fail gloriously and free to find the strength and will to try again. In the words of Carol Dweck, “It’s a learning process—not a battle between the bad you and the good you.”

What about you? What’s the one overarching thing you wished you’d known a decade ago?

reflect & rethink …* 

Carol Dweck On The Power Of Mindset To Help Children (& Adults) Reach Their Potential …*

Carol Dweck On The Power Of Mindset To Help Children (& Adults) Reach Their Potential ...* | rethinked.org

 

If you haven’t yet had time to read Carol Dweck‘s brilliant book on the power of mindsets to shape students’ motivation and learning, or if you have read it and just can’t get enough–I highly recommend the video below. In a lecture given at the RSA in September 2013, Dweck summarizes the key findings from her work on mindsets and gives some practical tips for translating those insights into impact.

How To Help Every Child Fulfill Their Potential – Carol Dweck via The RSA, published September 18, 2013

Michel Gondry on Animating Noam Chomsky & The Power Of Drawing To Move People …*

“I have this relationship with drawing because it’s a way to make people smile and do something a bit artistic and narrative. Well, let’s say, for instance, I wanted Audrey Tautou to play in my new movie–I draw it. So I draw myself writing a letter, and flying from America to France, dropping the letter, then I cut my arm…I mean it’s completely absurd but I do it because I think she’s going to be maybe a little moved or touched by the effort I put into it.”

Enjoy this whimsical behind the scenes, brought to you by The Creators Project, of Michel Gondry‘s process for his new documentary, Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation With Noam Chomsky. The documentary, which is now available on iTunes, explores “the life of controversial MIT professor, philosopher, linguist, anti-war activist and political firebrand Noam Chomsky. Through complex, lively conversations with Chomsky and brilliant illustrations by Gondry himself, the film reveals the life and work of the father of modern linguistics while also exploring his theories on the emergence of language. The result is not only a dazzling, vital portrait of one of the foremost thinkers of modern times, but also a beautifully animated work of art.”  

As for this short behind the scenes doc, it’s a delightful peek into a creative  playful mind and what it takes to visualize ideas and make them more human…*

Animating Noam Chomsky | An Afternoon With Michel Gondry | via The Creators Project, published December 10, 2013.

[ H/T – Behind The Scenes of Michel Gondry’s Film “Is The Man Who IS Tall Happy?” via Booooooom, published December 12, 2013. ]

 

Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? Official Trailer (HD) Documentary, Michel Gondry | published October 28, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org

 

READ

TED’s Chris Anderson on How to Give a Killer Presentation ~ via Harvard Business Review, published June 2013.

Why Empathy Is The Force That Moves Business Forward ~ via Forbes, published May 30, 2013.

Class of 2013: Start Designing Your Life ~ Ideo’s Tim Brown’s commencement speech at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Information in 2010. It’s been adapted a bit for length, but his advice to you is the same: start designing your life. via Design Thinking | Thoughts By Tim Brown, published May 21, 2103.

Big Innovations Question the Status Quo. How Do You Ask the Right Questions? ~ via FastCo.Design, published March 17, 2011.

Tina Seelig on The Science of Creativity ~ ‘It’s time to make creative thinking, just like the scientific method, a core part of our education.’ via Fast Company, published April 17, 2013.

35 Scientific Concepts That Will Help You Understand The World ~ via Business Insider, published May 27, 2013.

Transient Advantage ~ via Harvard Business Review, published June 2013.

Seven Paths to a Meaningful Life ~ Adapted from a commencement address Philip G. Zimbardo delivered at the University of Puget Sound earlier this month. via Greater Good Science Center, published May 28, 2013.

Forget Work-Life Balance. The Question is Rest Versus Effort ~ Dan Ariely on why we should rethink…* the calendar. via Big Think, published May 30, 2013.

LOOK

There Are As Many Reasons As The Population Of New York To Use The Dictionary of Numbers ~ The Google Chrome extension Dictionary of Numbers allows users to translate large numbers into human terms. via FastCoCreate, published May 24, 2013.

The Discoveries That Promote Metacognition & Self-Directed Learning ~ via Teach Thought, published May 29, 2013.

Crowdfunded Telescope Lets The Public Explore Space ~ ARKYD is an orbiting space telescope that can be controlled by the public – its primary aim is to make space exploration accessible to anyone who is interested. via PSFK, published May 30, 2013.

‘Warning’ Signs That Encourage You To Do The Opposite ~ The ‘Nature’s Playground’ campaign: To reinvent its reputation, and encourage visitors to enjoy its country houses across east England—national conservation charity National Trust approached UK-based consultancy The Click Design to create physical tongue-in-cheek signage. via Design Taxi, published May 29, 2013.

Lewis and Clark, Meet Foursquare ~ MyReadingMapped makes historic journeys come alive. via Atlantic Cities, published May 29, 2013.

WATCH

Design Thinking & Education: Annette Diefenthaler, IDEO ~ Annette Diefenthaler, a Senior Design Research Specialist & Project Lead at IDEO, discusses creating and launching IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit. via Vialogues, published May 23, 2013.

The Purpose of Philosophy is to Ask the Right Questions ~ Slavoj Žižek on how Philosophy is not here to provide all of the answers. What it can do however, which is more powerful, is ask the right questions. via BigThink, published May 28, 2013.

Take A Secret Look Inside The Cocoon As A Caterpillar Transforms To A Butterfly ~ Using three dimensional X-ray imaging, we can now see the magical process of metamorphosis up close. via FastCoExist, published May 24, 2013.

New playlist: Design giants ~ From graphics to products, check out these 13 TED talks by some of the world’s greatest designers. via TED Blog, published May 28, 2013.

{ grit } Angela Duckworth on the Need to Rethink…* Our Assumptions About What It Takes To Do Well in School & Life

“What we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective from a psychological perspective. In education the one thing we know how to measure best is IQ. But what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?”

*

Enjoy this brilliantly insightful and pithy TED talk by  Angela Duckworth, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, whose research centers on non-IQ competencies, including self-control and grit, that predict success both academically and professionally. In her talk, Duckworth focuses on the critical importance of grit to both successful learning and living, encouraging us to rethink our assumptions about which characteristics positively influence our potential. Highlighting Carol Dweck‘s research on growth mindset as the most effective idea for building grit in students that she’s encountered thus far, Duckworth does not shy away from stating how much work remains to be done in uncovering and designing tools and processes by which to build grit in ourselves and our students. “In other words, we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.”

*

{ highlights }

“[…] In all these different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success and it wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

“So far, the best idea I’ve heard about building grit in kids is something called “growth mindset”. This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenges, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.”

“So growth mindset is a great idea for building grit, but we need more. And that’s where I’m going to end my remarks, because that’s where we are, that’s the work that stands before us. We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions and we need to test them. We need to measure whether we’ve been successful and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned. In other words, we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.”

Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit ~ via TED.com, published May 9, 2013

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