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{ Empathy Is a Choice …* } Research Says: Empathy is only as limited as we choose it to be

{ Empathy Is a Choice ...* } Research Says: Empathy is only as limited as we choose it to be | rethinked.org

“Arguments against empathy rely on an outdated view of emotion as a capricious beast that needs to yield to sober reason. Yes, there are many situations in which empathy appears to be limited in its scope, but this is not a deficiency in the emotion itself. In our view, empathy is only as limited as we choose it to be.” 

In a recently published article, psychologists Daryl CameronMichael Inzlicht, and William A. Cunningham dispute the notion that empathy is a limited commodity, making the much more compelling argument that empathy is a choice.

We believe that empathy is a choice that we make whether to extend ourselves to others. The “limits” to our empathy are merely apparent, and can change, sometimes drastically, depending on what we want to feel.

The co-authors highlight several studies which show that the absence of empathy is linked to extrinsic and context-specific factors. By disproving the idea that our failures of empathy are linked to inherent limits in our capacity for the emotion, these studies offer an inspiring and compelling case for choosing to empathize.

. . . * 

Two decades ago, the psychologist Daniel Batson and colleagues conducted a study that showed that if people expected their empathy to cost them significant money or time, they would avoid situations that they believed would trigger it. More recently, one of us, Daryl Cameron, along with the psychologist Keith Payne, conducted an experiment to see if similar motivational factors could explain why we seem more empathetic to single victims than to large numbers of them.

Participants in this study read about either one or eight child refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. Half of the participants were led to expect that they would be asked to make a donation to the refugee or refugees, whereas the other half were not. When there was no financial cost involved in feeling empathy, people felt more empathy for the eight children than for the one child, reversing the usual bias. If insensitivity to mass suffering stemmed from an intrinsic limit to empathy, such financial factors shouldn’t have made a difference.

. . . *

Some kinds of people seem generally less likely to feel empathy for others — for instance, powerful people. An experiment conducted by one of us, Michael Inzlicht, along with the researchers Jeremy Hogeveen and Sukhvinder Obhi, found that even people temporarily assigned to high-power roles showed brain activity consistent with lower empathy.

But such experimental manipulations surely cannot change a person’s underlying empathic capacity; something else must be to blame. And other research suggests that the blame lies with a simple change in motivation: People with a higher sense of power exhibit less empathy because they have less incentive to interact with others.

. . . *

Likewise, in another recent study, the psychologists Karina Schumann, Jamil Zaki and Carol S. Dweck found that when people learned that empathy was a skill that could be improved — as opposed to a fixed personality trait — they engaged in more effort to experience empathy for racial groups other than their own. Empathy for people unlike us can be expanded, it seems, just by modifying our views about empathy.

C H O O S E   E M P A T H Y   . . . *

Source: Empathy Is Actually a Choice via New York Times, published July 10, 2015

{ Bless the Mess } The Dangers of Oversimplifying the Complexity of Self & Life Into A Single Narrative …*

{ Bless the Mess } The Dangers of Oversimplifying the Complexity of Self & Life Into A Single Narrative ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

Storytelling has been identified as the unit of human understanding. It occupies a central place in early development and learning about the world, oneself, and one’s place in it. A critical function of the dominant left hemisphere of the brain is to continually make up stories about why things are the way they are, which becomes our understanding of the world. Stories are a way of putting disparate pieces of information into a unified context. As we grow, the drama of stories enliven us and the narrative structure tells us something about how things are and how things should be, whether we are listening to Big Bird’s take on life or Garrison Keillor’s tales of Lake Wobegon.

Stories remain central to understanding well after childhood. When people make judgments about right and wrong, even in politics or the jury box, they often do so as a result of a story that they construct about events that have happened. […] It’s just human nature.

-Stuart Brown in Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately–those we tell, those we remember, those we believe, and those we feel compelled to challenge and rewrite. As Stuart Brown highlights above, stories are the key unit of understanding in human life. We look up at the sky and feel compelled to connect the stars with imaginary lines. Yet, the dangers of becoming too wrapped up in a single story are very real. If we are only able to view human identity–our own and that of others–through a single lens, we run the risk of falling prey to essentialism and a complete breakdown of any opportunity for empathy and true human connection.

The insistence, if only implicitly, on a choiceless singularity of human identity not only diminishes us all, it also makes  the world much more flammable. The alternative to the divisiveness of one preeminent categorization is not any unreal claim that we are all much the same. That we are not. Rather, the main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division that allegedly cannot be resisted. Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when our differences are narrowed into one devised system of uniquely powerful categorization.

Perhaps the worst impairment comes from the neglect–and denial–of the role of reasoning and choice, which follows from the recognition of our plural identities. 

– Amartya Sen in Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time)

How do we go beyond the single story or the first story that we create about ourselves and those around us? A few weeks ago, I wrote about the power of simply asking strangers and friends about their hearts and their stories. But I really am curious, how do you think we might go about getting a better sense of the plurality and fullness of each other’s identities? As I wait for your answers, here is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2009 TED talk, in which she poignantly addresses the perils of limiting ourselves to a single story.

So that is how to create a single story: show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become.
. . . *
The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
. . . * 
I have always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of their dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult, it emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.
. . . *
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and
to malign but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
. . . *
When we reject the single story, when we realize that there’s never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story 

{ The Zigzag Walk } The Adventure Is Not the Getting There, It’s the On-the-Way …*

{ The Zigzag Walk } The Adventure Is Not the Getting There, It's the On-the-Way ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

I’ve just finished reading Stephen Graham’s splendid book, The Gentle Art of Tramping that Alastair Humphreys recommended in his interview. The Gentle Art of Tramping, which was first published in 1927, is a delightful meditation on the themes and values of the vagabond and, more broadly, on the gentle art of living (or the art of living gently). In the last chapter, Graham describes what he calls the “Zigzag Walk” – a little set of constraints he designed for himself to allow for chance and serendipity to guide his explorations. I’ve just arrived in San Francisco, where I will be staying for the next month and can’t wait to give the Zigzag walk a go in this lovely city.

g e t   l o s t,   e x p l o r e   &   r e t h i n k   . . . *

A frequent wish of the traveler and wanderer is to obtain genuinely chance impressions of cities and countries. He would trust neither his own choice of road, nor the guide’s choice, nor the map. But if he goes forth in aimlessness he inevitably finds himself either making for the gayer and better-lighted places, or returning to his own door. The problem is to let chance and the town take charge of you, for the world we travel in is more wonderful than human plan or idle heart’s desire.

One day in New York, wishing to explore that great city in a truly haphazard way, I hit on the following device–a zigzag walk. The first turning to the left is the way of the heart. Take it at random and you are sure to find something pleasant and diverting. Take the left again and the piquancy may be repeated. But reason must come to the rescue, and you must turn to the right in order to save yourself from a mere uninteresting circle. To make a zigzag walk you take the first turning to the left, the first to the right, then the first to the left again, and so on.

[…]

How unusual and real and satisfactory were the impressions obtained by going–not the crowd’s way, but the way of the zigzag, the diagonal between heart and reason.

[…]

At the same time, it may be said that you will not know the name of the place until you get there. You can put no destination label on your rucksack, and if anyone asks where you are going, you may tell him in confidence, whisper the dreadful fact in his ear–“honestly, you do not know.” The adventure is not the getting there, it’s the on-the-way. It is not the expected; it is the surprise; not the fulfillment of prophecy, but the providence of something better than prophesied. You are not choosing what you shall see in the world, but are giving the world an even chance to see you.

I am still on that zigzag way, pursuing the diagonal between the reason and the heart;

. . . *

Source: The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham

{ On Connection & Decision-Making } Thinking About Motivation, Empathy & Storytelling …*

{ On Connection & Decision-Making } Thinking About Motivation, Empathy & Storytelling ...* |rethinked.org - photograph: Elsa Fridman

 When researchers study the brains of people trying to predict the thoughts and feelings of others, they can actually see a difference in the brain activity depending on whether that person is trying to understand a friend versus a stranger. Even at the level of blood flowing through your brain, you treat people you know well differently than people you don’t. – Teens These Days, Always Changing Their Gray Matter

This week had me thinking about the role of connection and feelings of connectedness in decision-making processes. Some of the findings coming out of decision research, which I’ve featured below, raise some very intriguing and urgent questions about the role of empathy and the need to think more carefully about the types of narratives we craft when trying to motivate people to take action or trigger generous behaviors.

“It turns out that our engagement with a cause– it’s not about numbers, it’s not about classes of victims, it’s really about two things: First of all, it’s emotional and it’s with individuals. We have evolved, we are hardwired to feel a certain amount of empathy and connection but with one other person, whom we see, whom we can relate to, not with a hundred thousand people half a world away. The other thing is that we want to feel like we’re having an impact so we want some kind of a positive arch, we want to see a difference being made. And so when aid organizations talk about 5 million people at risk and make it sound terribly depressing, they’re precisely hitting the buttons that turn people off.”

In this Big Think video Nicholas Kristof explores the kinds of connections that link us to social and humanitarian causes and motivate us to give, participate and take action.

“Some of the research about our preference for helping individuals over classes of people comes from experiments where people were asked to contribute in some cases to this child–when it was used, was Rokia, a girl from West Africa–versus a large group of people, millions of people suffering malnutrition in Africa again. And of course, everybody wanted to contribute to Rokia, to that girl, they wanted to help that girl, they didn’t really care about the millions of people being malnourished. But what was striking is that even though we intellectually know that, “one death is a tragedy and a million deaths is a statistic,” that the point at which we begin to be numbed, is when that number, is when N equals two. The moment you added not just Rokia but had a boy next to her and said, “you can help these two hungry kids,” then people were less likely to contribute than if it was just Rokia. Likewise, people are less likely to contribute to a fund to save kids from cancer if the same amount of money is going to save not one life but eight lives. There really is this bias to help an individual. So we have to figure out, obviously the needs are vast, so we have to figure out how to open these lines of communication to move people at an emotional level to help an individual; but then use that empathy then to broaden and to serve so many other people who need help.”

Kristof’s talk had me thinking about Brene Brown’s definition of empathy and how it compares in particular to sympathy: Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection. Since our ability to empathize with another person is so dependent on our ability to imagine what it must be like to experience a situation from that person’s point of view, I wonder if thinking about multiple people’s pain or needs makes the illusion that we can share in another’s subjective experience, that we can imagine what it feels like from their perspective, more fragile and difficult to buy into. Could it be that stories and aid campaigns that focus on a single individual drive empathy and consequently the necessary feelings of connection that trigger action while campaigns using groups of people drive sympathy and thus disconnection?

“One of the things that really struck me was there had been experiments that asked people to do some math equations, solve some math problems first, and it turns out that if you do that, that if you exercise the more rational parts of your brain, then you’re less empathetic, you’re less likely to contribute. Those of us who care about these issues, we need to figure out how to do a better job of storytelling about individuals and showing that there is a possibility of hope.”

I think Kristoff raises a very worthy challenge about the need to craft better stories. You may remember a video I shared on here last month that looked precisely at How Stories Can Change Our Behavior By Changing Our Brain Chemistry …* The short video examines the link between empathy, the narrative arc, neurochemistry and behavior by focusing on some of the findings emerging from Paul Zak‘s, a founding pioneer in the nascent field of neuroeconomics, research:

Monitoring the brain activity of hundreds of study subjects watching a video with a simple narrative, Zak found increases in the levels of the neurochemicals oxytocin and cortisol, which are associated with empathic responses. Most remarkable, however, was the discovery that this response also resulted in study subjects taking action, in this case through donating money they had just earned to a charitable cause related to the story they watched and even to fellow subjects. Zak’s conclusion that there could be a universal story structure that functions to connect us to each other might not be surprising to storytellers, but seeing it supported by neuroscience is a tale worth repeating. 

. . . *

Now for a different aspect of decision-making, on New York Magazine’s Science of Us blog, in her article 4 Steps to Making an Overwhelming Decision Easy, Melissa Dahl highlights a recent study on the best decision-making strategy to adopt when faced with multiple options that “all seem kind of okay, like when you’re choosing a health-care plan or looking for a new apartment.”

Tibor Besedes at the Georgia Institute of Technology led a study — published recently in The Review of Economics and Statistics — that pitted three decision-making strategies against each other, and the best strategy was the one that treated the process like a tournament, 
  1. Divide the options into piles of four
  2. Choose the best option from each pile
  3. Put the winners from the first round into a new finalist pile
  4. Choose the best option from winners of the earlier four selections

{ You Don’t Need to Travel Far to Unhouse Yourself } Being Open To the Potential All Around Us Is A Choice …*

{ You Don’t Need to Travel Far to Unhouse Yourself } Being Open To the Potential All Around Us Is A Choice ...* | rethinked.org

A few weeks ago, I shared a list of the top five things that walking 500 miles helped me understand in a deeper or different way. Here is a bit more context around the third lesson- be open.

Earlier this week, Jenna remarked that we have both been writing a lot about travel these past few months. Perhaps even with puzzling frequency given that this is a learning innovations blog. Yet few activities compare to travel in terms of speed and efficiency at making the ordinary unknown–a critical condition for deep learning, cultivating empathy, curiosity and a host of other learning and flourishing-enabling capacities that fascinate (obsess) us, here at rethinked …*

When we travel, the scope and definitions of what we know become more malleable; we shed our routines and leave behind our habits. Our assumptions are questioned–whether by will or circumstance, or both.

This enlargement of the mundane through added awareness and presence is one of the most fantastic aspects of travel. But what I realized during my walk is that it is possible, easy even, to capture this sense of mystery and presence inherent to travel in one’s everyday. It is a question of choice, of choosing to be open to the present moment.

When I was walking, I met new people every single day–people of all backgrounds, ages and interests. In fact, some of the most meaningful friendships I made were with people I would likely not have been open to meeting at home in New York. I felt significantly more social on the Camino and more excited by the things around me–I peeked around corners; I entered decrepit buildings; I climbed bell towers; I looked up in churches. I felt so eager to interact with the life all around me and I found that many of the barriers I experience in New York, things like anxiety or tiredness, were absent. I wondered why that was and thought how nice it would be to live one’s life as if perpetually in foreign territory. And that’s when I realized how accessible it is to do just that. When I set out for my walk, as I almost always do when I prepare to travel, I set for myself the intention of being open and attentive to the new people I would meet and the new places I would visit. And then I did exactly that, and it was enough, it worked, I lost myself in the best way in the present moment all throughout my trip.

All one has to do is decide to be open to the potential that surrounds us. It seems obvious and it is. But so often we get caught up in the flow of things and we forget that our daily surroundings are teeming with potential for new discoveries, connections and experiences.

There’s a quote from one of Martin Amis’ brilliant novels, Time’s Arrow, which I love and which I’ve shared here before:

Mmm—people! It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay.

We have these ideas of the world being much more impermeable than it actually is. The places, people and experiences that surround us have infinite potential to surprise and delight us, if we just remember to be open. If we make the choice, daily, of asking for the okay.

{ The Happiness Equation } A Look Into Some of the Factors That Affect Our Experience of Happiness …*

Last week I wrote about the evolutionary function of positive emotions, now I’d like to turn our attention to some of the intrinsic factors that affect our enduring levels of happiness. In Authentic Happiness, Seligman proposes the following “happiness equation”:

H = S + C + V

Where H is your enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control. (45)

Today I will focus on the factors outside of our voluntary control (S) that determine our set range of happiness. (Don’t worry, we’ll soon get to the many things under your voluntary control that you can do to enhance and amplify your happiness.)

{ H } ENDURING LEVELS OF HAPPINESS VS. MOMENTARY HAPPINESS

Seligman differentiates enduring levels of happiness from momentary happiness. This is important because the ways in which you increase the one are not the same as the ways in which you increase the other and the goal, of course, is to amplify our enduring happiness:

Momentary happiness can easily be increased by any number of uplifts, such as chocolate, a comedy film, a back rub, a compliment, flowers, or a new blouse. […] No one is more expert on this topic than you are. The challenge is to raise your enduring level of happiness, and merely increasing the number of bursts of momentary positive feelings will not accomplish this. (45)

Seligman identifies three key variables that keep each individual’s levels of enduring happiness within a relatively set range over the course of one’s life: the high heritability of personality traits, a baseline level of happiness (also likely genetically inherited) and our inevitable adaptation to the good things we have in life which leads us to take them for granted and reap less positive emotions from them over time.

{ THE STEERSMAN } We each have a personal set range for our level of positive (and negative) emotion which may represent the inherited aspect of overall happiness.

According to various studies on the psychology of identical twins and that of adopted children, it appears that roughly 50 percent of almost every personality trait turns out to be attributable to genetic inheritance:

The psychology of identical twins turns out to be much more similar than that of fraternal twins, and the psychology of adopted children turns out to be much more similar to their biological parents than to their adoptive parents. All of these studies—and they now number in the hundreds—converge on a single point: roughly 50 percent of almost every personality trait turns out to be attributable to genetic inheritance. (47)

Don’t despair just yet, as Seligman points out, “high heritability does not determine how unchangeable a trait is.”

Some highly heritable traits (like sexual orientation and body weight) don’t change much at all, while other highly heritable traits (like pessimism and fearfulness) are very changeable. ( 47) 

{ THE HAPPINESS THERMOSTAT } We each have a personal set range for our level of positive (and negative) emotion, and this range may represent the inherited aspect of overall happiness. 

A systematic study of 22 people who won major lotteries found that they reverted to their baseline level of happiness over time, winding up no happier than 22 matched controls. The good news, however, is that after misfortune strikes, the thermostat will strive to pull us out of our misery eventually. In fact, depression is almost always episodic, with recovery occurring within a few months of onset. Even individuals who have become paraplegic as a result of spinal cord accidents quickly begin to adapt to their greatly limited capacities, and within eight weeks they report more net positive emotion than negative emotion. Within a few years, they wind up only slightly less happy on average than individuals who are not paralyzed. Of people with extreme quadriplegia, 84 percent consider their life to be average or above average. These findings fit the idea that we each have a personal set range for our level of positive (and negative) emotion, and this range may represent the inherited aspect of overall happiness. (48)

{ THE HEDONIC TREADMILL } Causes you to to rapidly & inevitably adapt to good things by taking them for granted

Another barrier to raising your level of happiness is the “hedonic treadmill,” which causes you to rapidly and inevitably adapt to good things by taking them for granted. As you accumulate more material possessions and accomplishments, your expectations rise. The deeds and things you worked so hard for no longer make you happy; you need to get something even better to boost your level of happiness into the upper reaches of its set range. But once you get the next possession or achievement, you adapt to it as well, and so on. There is, unfortunately, a good deal of evidence for such a treadmill. (49)

  • In less than three months, major events (such as being fired or promoted) lose their impact on happiness level.
  • Wealth, which surely brings more possessions in its wake, has a surprisingly low correlation with happiness level. Rich people are, on average, only slightly happier than poor people.
  • Real income has risen dramatically in the prosperous nations over the last century, but the level of life satisfaction has been entirely flat in the United States and most other wealthy nations.
  • Recent changes in an individual’s pay predict job satisfaction, but average levels of pay do not.
  • Physical attractiveness (which, like wealth, brings about any number of advantages) does not have much effect at all on happiness.
  • Objective physical health, perhaps the most valuable of all resources, is barely correlated with happiness. 
  • There are limits on adaptation, however. There are some bad events that we never get used to, or adapt to only very slowly. The death of a child or a spouse in a car crash is one example. (49)

Here’s a wonderful TED talk from Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Dan Gilbert on the Surprising Science of Happiness, where he looks into some of the very factors, notably the impact bias, at work behind our hedonic treadmill and happiness thermostat.

In conclusion, the S variables (your genetic steersman, your set range and the hedonic treadmill) tend to keep your level of enduring happiness generally stable across your life span.

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

22 Questions For Business & Life From Roger Martin, Adam Grant, the Heath Brothers & Other Rethinkers …*

22 Questions For Business & Life From Roger Martin, Adam Grant, the Heath Brothers & Other Rethinkers ...* | rethinked.org

For this month’s issue, Inc. Magazine compiled a wonderful list of 100 “provocative questions for business owners”. Good questions are one of the greatest tools we have for making the ordinary unknown and rethinking our landscapes of possibility. Below, I’ve assembled twenty-two of the questions from the list that I found most compelling and which I hope will inspire you to question some of the things you may be overlooking or taking for granted in your life and business.

question & rethink …*

 

What counts that we are not counting? -Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and head of global hospitality for Airbnb

*

In the past few months, what is the smallest change we have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the large return? -Robert Cialdini, author and professor emeritus of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University

*

What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader? -Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach and author

*

If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently? -Adam Grant, author and professor at Wharton

*

What should we stop doing? -Peter Drucker, management expert and author

*

What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience? -Charles Handy, author and management expert

*

What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success? -Bob Rosen, executive coach and author

*

Who have we, as a company, historically been when we’ve been at our best? -Keith Yamashita, author and founder of SYPartners

*

Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief? -Chip and Dan Heath, authors who teach at Stanford’s and Duke’s business schools, respectively

*

What would have to be true for the option on the table to be the best possible choice? -Roger Martin, professor, Rotman Business School

*

Am I failing differently each time? -David Kelley, founder, IDEO

*

What would I recommend my friend do if he were facing this dilemma? -Chip and Dan Heath

*

What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? -Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund

*

Instead of going to current contacts for new ideas, what if you reconnected with dormant contacts–the people you used to know?  If you were going reactivate a dormant tie, who would it be? -Adam Grant

*

Do you see more potential in people than they do in themselves? -Adam Grant

*

To whom do you add value? -Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, co-founders, The RBL Group

*

What was the last experiment we ran? -Scott Berkun, author

*

What successful thing are we doing today that may be blinding us to new growth opportunities? -Scott D. Anthony, managing partner, Innosight

*

Do the decisions we make today help people and the planet tomorrow? -Kevin Cleary, president, Clif Bar

*

How do you encourage people to take control and responsibility? -Dan Ariely

*

How do I stay inspired? -Paul Bennett, chief creative officer, IDEO

*

What is our question? -Dev Patnaik, CEO, Jump Associates

*

Source: 100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask via Inc. published April 2014

Staying With the Question When We’re Lost In the Space Between Potential Futures …*

Staying With the Question When We’re Lost In the Space Between Potential Futures ...* | rethinked.org

When we’re lost in the space between potential futures, it seems, we can’t help but torment ourselves with impossible questions. Our ruminations tend to focus on what we are missing, what we may or may not get, or what we fear giving up.

These days those sentiments go by the popular acronym FOMO, “Fear of Missing Out.” Back then we called it escapism. Most of us make sense of it as either cue or cowardice — either a healthy reminder to look beyond our current horizon, or a neurotic fear of commitment because there may be something better elsewhere.

Once we reduce those feelings to a binary choice, however, we become too focused on yearning and too little on learning. The preoccupation with picking the right future — whether to follow or forget the temptation to make a change — obscures the question of what the temptation may be trying to teach us.

It is often when we yearn for an answer that we stand to learn the most from staying with the question. It is neither resolution nor fulfillment that we long for in those moments, I suspect. It is desire. (We remain suspended because desire feeds on distance and possibility). If we can’t figure out which option is better then it may be worth examining what those options mean to us.” – Gianpiero Petriglieri

Source: Getting Stuck Can Help You Grow via Harvard Business Review, published February 6, 2013.

I absolutely love this quote from Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, Gianpiero Petriglieri. “It is often when we yearn for an answer that we stand to learn the most from staying with the question.” Of course this is much easier said than done. We are fragile beings after all and it is in our nature to seek comfort and avoid uncertainty. How might we learn to stay with the question? Seems a worthy question around which to organize one’s life.

question & rethink …

“Own your attention — it’s all you really have.” – Jonathan Harris on Navigating Stuckness …*

"Own your attention — it’s all you really have." - Jonathan Harris on Navigating Stuckness | rethinked.org

“We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.” 

-from Jonathan Harris‘s Transom Manifesto, “Navigating Stuckness,” – an autobiographical journey with teachable moments (Set aside some time to read the full thing, it is well worth your attention.)

[H/T: Don’t Wait via SwissMiss, published January 17, 2013. ] 

Dr. Brené Brown On The Power of Empathy …*

Enjoy this lovely short animation on the power of empathy, excerpted from Brené Brown‘s speech at the RSA  where she explains why embracing vulnerability is critical to human flourishing. 

RSA Shorts – The Power of Empathy | Published December 10, 2013, on YouTube.

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