Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Monitoring Well-being in Schools

According to the BBC News today, there are plans afoot to make UK schools monitor children's well-being, as well as their exam results.

On closer inspection of the source report in the Guardian, 18 new social targets are being proposed, among them:

* bullying
* teenage pregnancy rates
* pupil's drug problems
* criminal records
* obesity levels.

Apparently the move is part of a government attempt to reduce drug use, and the teenage pregnancy rate (ours is the highest in Europe). How setting new targets for schools is going to achieve this I'm not entirely sure. 'What gets measured gets managed' say some business people. OK, but that's a long way away from 'what gets measured gets managed well'.

Incidentally, the above 5 measures are not well-being measures, strictly speaking. The assumption being made by the government (wrongly) is that if you reduce what is negative (ill-being) you automatically increase what is positive (well-being). Personally, I think we'd have far more of a positive effect if we actually focussed on what makes children flourish in the first place.

If you have any views on this, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

The Happy List

Did you see the Independent on Sunday's 'Happy List' today? It's a good antidote to the Sunday Times' Rich List, a refreshing change from focussing on how many billions Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal is worth this year*.

The criteria for appearing in the IOS Happy List are:

1) you have to make the lives of strangers happier,

2) making strangers happier is the prime motive in doing what you do (as opposed to a side-effect of it), and

3) the example you set deserves celebrating.

I think the results are a bit of a mixed bag to be honest; I'm not sure all of those on the list actually match these criteria....

One person who should be at the top of the list in my opinion is Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder and director of Kids Company, a London charity which looks after vulnerable inner city kids and young people. The aim of Kids Company is to return children to their childhood. Now that really is worth celebrating.

If the IOS repeats the Happy List in 2009, I wonder if any Positive Psychologists will be making an appearance...!

I'd be interested in hearing whether you can think of other people who should be on the list - if so why not let the IOS know? Perhaps they can be included next year.

* [It's £27.7 billion - he's the world's fourth richest man. To put his fortune in perspective, he's richer than the Sultan of Brunei and only ~£1bn behind Bill Gates].

Image: Joe Schlabotnik

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Positive Psychology in Business

This month my Positive Psychology News Daily article focuses on the problem of applying Positive Psychology in business.

At the moment there are only about a dozen or so validated interventions (i.e. exercises which are scientifically 'proven' to increase your well-being); all of them are common sense/what your grandmother knew; none of them are rocket-science. They're all suitable for use in 1:1 therapy and coaching situations, but are they suitable in business? There are very few interventions being tested in businesses, and anyway, application is more of an art than a science.

I think we need to build up a knowledge base of case studies of how PP is being applied in organisational contexts, and what the effects are, in order for businesses to be persuaded that Positive Psychology has many tangible benefits worth considering.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Money, Happiness, Time

I really liked this article from Australia's Herald Sun yesterday, about the relationship between money and happiness. As you'd expect from that part of the world, it gets straight to the point; over a certain amount, money doesn't make you happier.

The article suggests that what people who work hard really want is more time, and advises that the way to create more time is to 'outsource' all the jobs that someone else can do for you more cheaply than you can do them yourself. OK, that's logical to me so far. But then it goes on to say that you should use the extra time you've created through outsourcing to "focus all your energy on bringing home the bacon.....After you've hit the economics of enough, money has little use, other than as a tool to allow you the economic advantage of creating the life you want with the limited time you have left".

Hmmm? Run that one by me again?

Surely if time is so precious the last thing you want to be spending it doing is more work? Unless, of course, you're absolutely passionate about your work, and have the kind of job that you'd do even if you weren't paid at all. Which is really my point - wouldn't it be better to find a job that you enjoy doing, where you can use your strengths every day, and which brings out the best in you? It might sound a bit pie-in-the-sky, but it's perfectly possible for the vast majority of people to achieve this with a little coaching support. You just need to know what your strengths are.

Thanks to Viv T for the article

Image source: bogenfreund