An earlier Foresight Blog posting introduced the idea of imagined conversations that we have in our minds with people from our real-life, including our coworkers. During these imagined conversations, we are talking with our boss, peers or subordinates about all sorts of topics related to actual situations at work.
Many people have asked me whether work-related imagined conversations are helpful or harmful. My response: it isn’t that clear cut. Having conducted research on the topic and talked with many clients about their actual imagined conversations, my conclusion is that they can be helpful or harmful depending on the situation.
For example, in my research the majority of the people said that they felt negative emotions during their work-related imagined conversations. But, importantly, a sizable portion experienced mostly positive emotions (21%) or a mixture of positive and negative emotions (18%). In order to shed more light on the positive aspects of imagined conversations, I took a closer look at the stories told by the people who experienced positive emotions.
In June I presented the results of this data analysis at the 3rd International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) World Congress. The findings suggests that we may be able to do our jobs better when we imagine conversations with our coworkers. People can flourish at work by invoking imagined conversations that feel emotionally positive, nurture relationships, and support accomplishment of one’s job.
Specifically, the people who mentally rehearsed work-related conversations in advance of a difficult conversation reported that they developed more conversational options, were more prepared, and had a sense of greater competence to perform their job. Imagined conversations helped them feel more confident, focused, thoughtful, organized, effective, and able to achieve desired outcomes. Through imagined conversations they became more in touch with their thoughts and assumptions about their coworkers, increasing their ability to sensitively communicate.
Ultimately, the goal is to have effective, productive workplace relationships and imagined conversations are one technique that can help people accomplish this.
Can you remember a positive work-related imagined conversation, or a time when you felt you accomplished your job better by mentally rehearsing a conversation? I invite you to share your story in the comments section.
Many of us who took an Intro Psych course in college probably remember learning things like diagnosing mental disorders and the controversies around anti-depressant medications. Thinking about that class, you might wonder “where is the positive in psychology?”
That’s the exact kind of question which started the positive psychology movement in the 1990s, when some leading psychologists decided to make a conscious shift in the field away from the negative aspects of our psyche and toward the positive. One of the founders of the positive psychology movement defines it as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” Positive psychologists believe that we can improve well-being and goal-achievement by focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad.
As a coach, one of the things that attracted me to positive psychology is its grounding in research evidence that shows us how we can be most successful and satisfied in our life’s pursuits. Some people confuse positive psychology with the self-help movement or trends like affirmations. That’s not what my coaching practice is about. Coaching using the science of positive psychology involves understanding the research findings about how people thrive in their given endeavors, and applying those findings in meaningful ways in our lives.
For example, substantial psychological research shows that one of the most powerful predictors of long-term happiness is high-quality, supportive relationships. The relationships we have with our friends, family members, significant other and our coworkers all matter. This is one of the reasons that my own research has examined workplace relationship management as an important factor in our ability to accomplish our job. Next week I will be presenting this research at the International Positive Psychology Association’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology taking place here in Los Angeles.
Keep an eye out for next week’s Foresight Blog, where I’ll give you a sneak peak at what I’ll be presenting and how it relates to coaching using positive psychology.
In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing more about positive psychology, below are links to some of the most influential books in the field:
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Stumbling on Happiness
The Myths of Happiness
We tend to think of time as a limited resource. We say things like, “there are only so many hours in the day” and “I’m already working 24/7.” But what would it feel like to think of time as something flexible that we can build and expand?
Consider the difference between activities that are time wasters and those that are time builders. Time wasters are things that happen throughout your day that take precious time away from your priorities. Time wasters include technology disruptions like instant messages or Facebook, drop in visitors, telephone interruptions, unproductive meetings, meetings that go over their allotted time, multi-tasking, putting things off until you “feel inspired,” and all types of procrastination.
By contrast, time builders are strategies, habits, and activities that you purposefully integrate into your life to manage time and focus your attention. Time builders include making to do lists at the beginning of the day with your priorities in mind, designating 60 to 90 minute blocks on your calendar for uninterrupted productive time, organizing your desk so that you can easily find what you need, setting reminders in your Outlook calendar, and doing your most challenging work at the time of day when you feel most awake.
One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that time wasters and time builders are different for each person. If you are a social media strategist, spending time on Facebook may be a time builder for you. The point is: discover and reduce time wasters in your life while also identifying and cultivating time building habits.
If you completed the How Did You Spend Your Time? worksheet, now is a great time to revisit it with the idea of time wasters and time builders in mind. A technique I suggest to my coaching clients is to literally X out items from your worksheet that were time wasters. This will help you visualize how often they occur in an average week. Next, put a circle around time builders to show yourself times in the week when you were able to organize yourself to build time for what you love.
Check the Foresight Blog in the next couple of weeks for the final entry in the De-Clutter Your Career series which will provide strategies to keep your career de-cluttered going forward.