3 ways to improve innovation at your company, now!

3 ways to improve innovation at your company, now!

CEOs are struggling to embed innovation as a grass-root movement in their companies.

As a people strategist in the quest of human-centered workplaces that boost innovation as a company differentiator, I found the value of highlighting the linchpin between a confluence of generations in the workplace and organizations’ success in a digital disrupted world.

The following article, by Joan Michelson (@joanmichelson) for Forbes, states that putting aside assumptions about age permits CEOs to embrace the richness of different perspectives of the workforce. Across generations, workers are looking for purpose, challenge and autonomy. Creating a workplace culture where people feel they are accepted, can do meaningful work and can thrive is a must.

http://bit.ly/3agrI48

@gapinvoid

In the next article, Diane Fanelli (@Diane_Fanelli) writes for HR Technologist that creating an environment of trust, where employees do not feel negatively stereotyped because of their age, can be the first step to building a conducive environment for a productive multigenerational workforce -a great competitive advantage for companies that embrace innovation.

http://bit.ly/3adL6yw

These 2 articles highlight 3 next action item that every CEO may take in the next 3 days:

  • Understand the demographics
  • Listen and acknowledge
  • Promote age-diversity

You already count with an innovation lab in your organization, it is only a matter of unleashing the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing, to tackle your most difficult problems that are precluding to deliver the customer experience you promised.

@gapinvoid @randyhlavac #NUMarketing

#innovation #multigenerations #collaboration #crowdsourcing #leadership #CEOs

Why do I exist?

Why do I exist?

To quote the great philosopher, Carl Jung:“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Indeed, it’s far easier to be told how to live than to decide how to live. However, your purpose is something you need to decide on your own.

And hence, Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky has said, “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”Indeed, without vision and purpose, people perish. It is the struggle — the search and drive for something more that gives life meaning. Without a future to strive for, people rot away quick.

Thus, the purpose of life is not to be happy, but instead, to see how far one can go. It’s to be innately curious and to explore your own personal limits.

How do I know? Just look around you; everything on this planet is either growing or dying. So, why think you’re any different?Interestingly, Dr. Gordon Livingston has actually said that humans need three things to be happy:

  • Something to do
  • Someone to love
  • Something to look forward to

Similarly, Viktor E. Frankl has said,“Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Hence, happiness is not a cause but an effect. It’s the effect of living in alignment. It’s what happens when you’re living your daily life with purpose and priority.

This article is intended to help you arrive at that point.Here we go.

You Need Something to Do

According to Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, most people are all mixed up about what it takes to live a life of harmonious passion.

For example, most people mistakenly believe that passion is something they ought to actively seek out. That unless they’re intrinsically compelled by their work, then they can’t love what they do.

However, it’s not what you do that’s important. Instead, it’s what you do for others. As Newport explains,“If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (‘what can the world offer me?’) and instead, adopt the craftsman mindset (‘what can I offer the world?’).”

Indeed, rather than selfishly seeking a life you’re passionate about, you should be thinking about developing skills, products, and abilities that benefit the lives of others.When you go beyond yourself, your skills and abilities are not just an individual sum of parts, instead, they become a part of a greater whole, and it is this that gives life meaning.

When begin to see your work have an effect on the lives of others, your confidence grows. As your confidence grows, you begin to deeply enjoy what you’re doing — you become more engaged with it, and eventually, you start to see your work as a “calling” or “mission.”And hence why so many people who work in professions that have such a profound effect on other people’s lives, like doctors, psychiatrists, or teachers, for example, love what they do.Also, why Cal Newport has said, “What you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”

Or put more simply: Your passion is not something you need to “find” or “follow,” instead, your passion follows you. It’s a result of your mindset and behavior. Not the other way around.In order to live this reality, however, you must realize that your life is about so much more than just yourself.

It’s about giving back. It’s about pouring your all into it. It’s about finding something to love.Which actually leads to the next point:

You Need Someone to Love

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

According to neuroscience research, the more you love someone, the more they’ll love you back. It makes sense; all our needs are the same. It is human nature to desire love and belongingness.

However, a little less talked about is the fact that love is not a noun but a verb. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

And sadly, this happens all too often. We take our relationships for granted. We allow the busyness of life to take over and stop investing in the relationship.

However, if you truly love someone, you’ll show it. You’ll stop being self-centered and be who you need to be for that personThis isn’t necessarily just romantic relationships, but all relationships. Love transforms not just the receiver, but also the giver. So, why wouldn’t you?

Although no matter how powerful of a force love is, just having someone to love isn’t enough. You still have to live out your own dreams and desires.

As Grant Cardone has said:“Remember that one single human being cannot make you happy enough to fulfill the dreams and goals you had before you met them.”

Which takes us to the next point:

You Need Something to Look Forward to

The research is clear: as people, we are happiest in anticipation of an event, rather than living the actual event itself.

Hence, you need a vision. You need something to look forward to. You need a goal in which are you exerting conscious and daily effort.

Keep in mind that it is the vision, not the goal that brings meaning. Hence, once you hit one, you need another. These are something you should never stop doing.

As Dan Sullivan has said,“We remain young to the degree that our ambitions are greater than our memories.”

However, not get too far ahead, what is your vision now? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Who do you want to do it with?What does your ideal day look like?

It’s powerful to not to think of these in terms of where you are now, but instead, where you want to be. See, many people become limited by the goals they can see in their history.

However, you shouldn’t let your current circumstances stop you from creating something far more powerful.

As Hal Elrod said, “Whatever future may seem like a fantasy to you now is simply a future reality that you have yet to create.”Indeed, you are both the designer and the creator of your life experience. Each must be bold and powerful.So, where do you intend to go?

In Conclusion

The purpose of life is not happiness, but growth.

Happiness comes after you’ve invested in something bigger and greater than yourself.

Hence, rather than seeking passion, what you want is to be of value. You want the satisfaction of contributing something to the world. To feel that your time on this globe actually had meaning.

Of course, all of this human experience is not objective but subjective. You are the one that ascribes meaning to the world.

As Stephen Covey has said, “You see the world, not as it is, but as you’ve been conditioned to see it.”

Hence, only you can decide if you’re living up to “purpose” or “potential.”

Moreover, love is what takes you beyond yourself. It transforms both the giver and the receiver. So, why wouldn’t you?

Finally, you need something to look forward to. Without a future to strive for, people rot away quick. So, where is your vision taking you?

Leadership Narrative.

Leadership Narrative.

To find your own personal leadership narrative, figure out and share what great leadership means to you.Great leaders build amazing communities. They do so in a variety of ways and over an extended period of time. One of the most effective tools to accomplish that is to shape and articulate powerful narratives of what’s possible. Effective leaders share stories about what great leadership looks and feels like when individuals come together as teams, and teams come together as communities, with a unifying sense of purpose and collective ambition. This insight has emerged from both survey data and dozens of C-suite-level interviews as part of a major global study, Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy, that MIT Sloan Management Review is conducting with Cognizant. In this new world of work, where being connected and resilient are of paramount importance, 82% of our global survey respondents and virtually all of those interviewed indicated that an individual in the digital world would need a certain level of digital savviness to be an effective leader. Yet, when asked what skill or behavior was the most important to leadership effectiveness, the answer was being able to articulate a clear sense of purpose, vision, and strategy. What at first seems old is new again: Clarity of communication in a hyper-speed world is a key difference maker in the eyes of current managers and leaders from around the world.To gain a better feeling of the texture that forms the fabric of this insight, consider this comment from Susan Sobbott, former president of American Express Global Commercial Services: “In the digital economy, physical presence can’t be mandatory to be an effective leader. You have to be able to lead people from many different cultures, in many different locations, and often with imperfect information because things are moving so fast,” she says. Her simple and elegant solution to this decades-old challenge reflects the power of a clear leadership narrative. “You have to be able to see a story emerging and to articulate that story in a way that has meaning and inspiration for a wide range of people. You have to convey your passion and beliefs through a powerful narrative.”

Why Finding Your Leadership Narrative Is Important

We analyzed our survey responses from more than 120 countries and conducted a sentiment analysis and heat-mapping exercise to identify the most important leadership behaviors in this new economy. The traits that emerged were authenticity, transparency, trust, inspiration, the ability to connect and invest in others, analytical capability, curiosity, and courage, among others. Few would argue that these behaviors and attributes are necessary, yet by themselves, standing independently, without the context needed to create meaning or catalyze change, they run the risk of being considered buzzwords. Stories help prevent that from happening, and that’s where the power of creating your leadership narrative comes into play. Developing a powerful narrative demands that you, the leader, take a stand on what you believe in, what you are about, and what impact you hope to create as you set out to form teams and build communities. The leader behaviors and attributes listed earlier become your means of communicating to others who you are, as well as your expectations for others concerning how you will lead together in your organization. It’s about finding and sharing your voice.In a recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, late-night comedian Stephen Colbert talked about his search to “find his show.” For months his show struggled in the ratings, not because it lacked comedic appeal or impact, but because it had no thesis or arc that held it together. Once he and his writing team took a stand on what they believed in and followed through on those beliefs transparently, authentically, and courageously, Colbert believes they found their show, and since then he has commanded the No. 1 slot in the ratings. To find your personal leadership narrative, you need to figure out what great leadership means to you. David Schmittlein, dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, made a similar point while being interviewed for this study. “A great leader must be willing and able to display the courage it sometimes takes to stand by well-founded convictions — to take a stand on a decision that may be unpopular,” Schmittlein states. “It is about finding your narrative — what you believe in — and not being a willow in the wind. A well-thought-out leadership narrative helps create meaning and motivation for others.”

Getting Started: Finding Your Leadership Narrative

I spend a good deal of my time coaching senior executives to shape and tell their leadership stories in leader-led development initiatives around the world. When crafted well, and integrated with important conceptual content, engaging senior leaders to share their perspectives can be a powerful learning experience. Years ago, I was coaching a vice-chairman of a large global financial services company to share his story on what it meant to be a great leader in a changing world. He looked at me, almost with a sense of embarrassment, and said, “I’ve been in leadership roles for 35 years, and this is the first time I have ever been asked to share what I actually believe to be the essential ingredients of great leadership.” My response: “Well then, let’s get started!”Follow these simple steps to find your leadership narrative:

  1. No matter how busy you are, how many deadlines you are facing, or how many people are vying for your time, give yourself permission to reflect on what being a great leader means to you. Don’t think about it for five minutes and consider the job done. Take a day or chunks of several days away from the office to seriously reflect on this. After you do that, write those thoughts down as a draft narrative. It might start out as a series of bullet points, and that’s completely fine to get you started. But make sure it begins to take shape as a story.
  2. Share your draft narrative with one person, or several people, you trust. By trust, I mean that you trust that they will be honest with you concerning how authentic your narrative feels. Does the narrative describe you? Have they seen you behave this way over time? Have they witnessed you trying to cultivate those behaviors in others? You are trying to discover whether you are an authentic role model for your own narrative.
  3. When your narrative is refined enough, try it out. Tell your story transparently and with authenticity. Your leadership narrative should not be seen as a war story, simply recounting something you did. Work on it so that others can learn from it. At the right time and with the right people, seek feedback on the impact your narrative is having and ask how your story can have greater impact.

How we work is changing, but why we work and what we hope to achieve through our work remain largely the same. We want to be part of something larger, something special, something that helps make this world we live in a better place. Your leadership narrative can motivate others in important ways. Finding your narrative — one that expresses authentically, transparently, and courageously what you believe in as a leader, what you are about, and indeed what you are willing to fight for — will let you begin to unite individuals into teams, and teams into amazing communities.

About the Author

LDouglas A. Ready is a senior lecturer in organizational effectiveness at the MIT Sloan School of Management, founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research, and MIT SMR guest editor. He tweets @doug_ready.

The Science of Gratitude.

The Science of Gratitude.

We are all generally aware of the benefits of gratitude—which include a more positive outlook on life, and even physical benefits such as a reduction in the symptoms of stress. Especially as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we make a mental note to be more grateful. Less appreciated, however, are the potential organizational benefits of practicing gratitude.

A summary of the science of gratitude by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley sheds light on how being grateful can improve both performance and culture in the workplace. Formal research into gratitude is a relatively new field. In 2000, there were only three peer-reviewed articles on the subject.

Fifteen years later, there are hundreds of such papers. Of particular interest to business leaders is research on what social scientists call “upstream reciprocity”—basically a fancy way of talking about paying it forward.

Gratitude connects us

When someone is nice to us, and we return the favor, that is a form of direct reciprocity that we expect. However, it turns out that people who are the recipients of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, and who make a point of feeling grateful, are also more likely to help a third party.

The ripple effects of that kind of indirect reciprocity are a powerful tool for business leaders looking to build a strong organizational culture.Robert Emmons is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. As he points out, feeling grateful is a two-step process. First, we recognize the presence of something positive in our lives. Second, we acknowledge it comes from an external source, often another person.

Gratitude involves a humble recognition that we are interdependent, that we need one another. In this way, gratitude can become a kind of “social glue” connecting not just individuals, but organizations. One study suggests the potential for organizations to “institutionalize” gratitude by making such expressions part of workplace culture.

The authors note a “significant relationship between gratitude and job satisfaction” and suggest that “organizational leaders can boost job satisfaction by regularly prompting grateful emotions.”

This is your brain on gratitude

In its summary of the benefits of gratitude, Berkeley’s Great Good Science Center cites recent research showing how feeling grateful enhances functioning in regions of the brain governing social bonds, and our ability to read others. Moreover, even though we think of gratitude as an emotional state, it also enhances cognitive functioning and decision-making.

In one study, writing gratitude letters produced measurable brain changes that lasted months after the intervention.This research confirms Barbara Fredrickson’s assertion that gratitude has a “broadening” effect on how we think, and at how we look at the world. It allows us to “discard automatic responses and instead look for creative, flexible, and unpredictable new ways of thinking and acting.”

When we are grateful, we are more inclined to seek support from others, to reframe challenging situations through a positive lens, and to engage in creative problem-solving.

Gratitude is a kind of mindfulness

It is no accident that the benefits of gratitude resemble those of mindfulness. Both practices ground us in the present. If we are thankful for what we have, we are less likely to ruminate over the past, or anxiously anticipate the future. 

Gratitude is similar to mindfulness in another respect as well: it helps increase our resistance to stress. As one researcher states, it is an extremely effective way “to fill the resilient tank.” Other research finds that gratitude acts as a natural anti-depressant.

We are just beginning to tap into the benefits of deliberate gratitude. Organizations that practice gratitude will attract and retain top talent and create a culture conducive to innovation and thriving.

By Naz Beheshti

Belonging vs. Fitting in.

Belonging vs. Fitting in.

Excerpt from Elisha Catts.

Have you walked into a room and suddenly felt like you don’t fit in? Perhaps you’ve been the only woman in a male-dominated field, or the only guy wearing a suit while everyone is in jeans. Perhaps the difference has been internal rather than external—a subtle feeling that everyone else is connecting and you don’t quite “click.”

These experiences can make you question whether you belong—in your workplace, among your friends, in a room of strangers, and even in your own home. They can leave you feeling empty, hurt, and even questioning your purpose in life.

The missing link in situations like these is having a sense of belonging—knowing that there is space for you, the real you, in every place you walk into.

World-renowned author and researcher, Brene Brown, says this about belonging:

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” —Brene Brown.[1]

Belonging is an intrinsic need for all humanity. Without a confident sense of belonging, we stumble around and end up settling for something far more dangerous to our well-being, acceptance.

Fitting in to find acceptance

The greatest imitator of belonging is acceptance. It is easy to believe that if people accept you and your lifestyle that equals belonging. This simply isn’t true. Belonging, despite its name, isn’t found in an external location. Belonging and acceptance are two entirely separate entities.

Acceptance is pursued through the act of “fitting in”—choosing to act the way others would expect, want, or even need you to act. Acceptance-seeking can only be satisfied when the desired response of the people you are trying to fit-in with is achieved. The challenge that comes from acceptance-seeking is that you end up on a roller coaster of emotions, dictated by another person’s approval.

Not only is this unhealthy because you are compromising or burying your very own identity, but it is dangerous because you have no control over the approval of others. You are putting your entire well-being into the fickle whims of other humans.

The major division between acceptance and belonging is that belonging doesn’t come from without, it begins from within.

Author Parker Palmer writes, “Long before community assumes external shape and form, it must exist within you.”

Before community, and that elusive sense of belonging can exist, it must take shape inside you. I’ve heard it said that one must find belonging within oneself, but I believe it is far more than that.

First, you have to find your self.

The first step on the journey of belonging is to discover who you are, and stop believing that belonging is given to you by somebody else or something else.

Find your “onlyness”

An author on TEDideas wrote that belonging is found when we discover our “onlyness”—the very things that make us unique. Onlyness is the sum of your personality, your history, your hopes, your loves, and all that you are; it is the essence of you.

Finding your onlyness is a journey, not a destination. A person doesn’t wake up and suddenly know the beginning, end and in-between of their self. It takes time, and a multitude of experiences, good and bad, that begin to shape the unique facets of your soul. And honestly, the journey isn’t always easy or pleasant.

Sometimes it requires that you learn some harsh realities of life. Other times, it might mean you need to stop sabotaging yourself and get out of your own way.

Brene Brown describes this process as walking through a wilderness. It’s wild and sometimes incredibly uncomfortable.

“Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness–an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” —Brené Brown

What is belonging?

Brene Brown is an expert on the subject of belonging. She describes it as, “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” But it extends beyond that to something internal as well. It is the willingness to bravely acknowledge we belong to something greater than ourselves, and that our belonging isn’t dependent on our actions or the approval of others. It simply is our human right.

Belonging is in direct contrast to fitting in. It has roots that go deep and are unshakeable, whereas acceptance is shallow and fickle. Belonging brings emotional security, but acceptance-seeking is undependable ground that is constantly shifting beneath you.

A true sense of belonging comes when you can be unapologetically you, and know there is a place for you in the world that isn’t dependent on whether people accept you or reject you. It is also a place where growth happens—because you can be vulnerable about your own weaknesses, without shame, and choose to learn from others and improve in those areas.

When you walk confidently and humbly in this way, you build trust in your relationships because the people in your life are secure in knowing the truth of who you are. This establishes strong bonds within your relationships. If you are simply trying to fit in, it compromises your own personal integrity and erodes trust and emotional connections.

Belonging is not dependent on others

A common misconception is that it is up to other people to make you feel like you belong. Belonging begins with the willingness to stand alone and take ownership of your own life and decisions.

Does this mean you should never take into account the thoughts and feelings of others? Of course not. But believing that you have to be someone else to belong will never work.

The reality is no one is perfect. While you’re berating yourself for having a messy house, just remember, there’s someone breathing a sigh of relief, because their house is messy too—and you just reminded them that we’re all imperfect, together.

Despite our greatest desires, other humans have a great BS detector. When we attempt to project ourselves as someone that we’re not, it will be known, even if it’s intangible. True relationships and belonging cannot be built on a lie.

Belonging can be developed

To overcome the desire to settle for acceptance, we all must push past years of conditioning by our peers and the world around us. We are constantly told that we need some product, some look, something, to make us who the world wants us to be; when all we really need is to be ourselves.

However, we can use this to our advantage by recognizing that everyone else feels the way we do. Everyone is afraid of being rejected. Everyone is afraid of not fitting in. Turn this upside down. Accept everyone. Treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Invite them to belong as their true selves.

Even if you don’t feel like you belong yet, you can practice by inviting others to belong. You can accept others for who they are, in every different situation you walk into. While belonging starts with taking a deep look at who you are, it also takes form as you make space for other people to really be themselves too. The more you make space for others’ unique-ness, the easier it becomes for you to hold space for yourself.

You belong

Regardless of where you start, searching for a sense of belonging is a natural human experience. It is integral to our lives and is part of everything we do. So whether you start by helping others or diving into personal introspection, remember that belonging is already yours. You belong just as you are. Right where you are. You don’t need anyone or anything else to give you a sense of belonging.

Did you know that there are over 7 billion people in the world?  But there is only one you. You have a place on this earth that no one can take away. You have experiences and knowledge that are uniquely yours. All of who you are—your onlyness—cannot be replicated. Whether others choose to accept you or not, you can bring yourself to the table with the confidence that you belong, right where you are and just as you are, simply because you are.

So walk out into the world, your workplace, and your relationships with the confidence of knowing that you belong. Because you really do.

[1] Brené Brown (2010). “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, p.40, Simon and Schuster

[2]Mother Teresa (2010). “Where There Is Love, There Is God: A Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others”, p.329

About Super-Agers.

About Super-Agers.

Most elderly individuals’ brains degrade over time, but some match — or even outperform — younger individuals on cognitive tests.

  • “Super-agers” seem to escape the decline in cognitive function that affects most of the elderly population.
  • New research suggests this is because of higher functional connectivity in key brain networks.
  • It’s not clear what the specific reason for this is, but research has uncovered several activities that encourage greater brain health in old age.

At some point in our 20s or 30s, something starts to change in our brains. They begin to shrink a little bit. The myelin that insulates our nerves begins to lose some of its integrity. Fewer and fewer chemical messages get sent as our brains make fewer neurotransmitters.

As we get older, these processes increase. Brain weight decreases by about 5 percent per decade after 40. The frontal lobe and hippocampus — areas related to memory encoding — begin to shrink mainly around 60 or 70. But this is just an unfortunate reality; you can’t always be young, and things will begin to break down eventually. That’s part of the reason why some individuals think that we should all hope for a life that ends by 75, before the worst effects of time sink in.

But this might be a touch premature. Some lucky individuals seem to resist these destructive forces working on our brains. In cognitive tests, these 80-year-old “super-agers” perform just as well as individuals in their 20s.

Just as sharp as the whippersnappers

To find out what’s behind the phenomenon of super-agers, researchers conducted a study examining the brains and cognitive performances of two groups: 41 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and 40 older adults between the ages of 60 and 80.

First, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests, like the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Seventeen members of the older group scored at or above the mean scores of the younger group. That is, these 17 could be considered super-agers, performing at the same level as the younger study participants. Aside from these individuals, members of the older group tended to perform less well on the cognitive tests. Then, the researchers scanned all participants’ brains in an fMRI, paying special attention to two portions of the brain: the default mode network and the salience network.

The default mode network is, as its name might suggest, a series of brain regions that are active by default — when we’re not engaged in a task, they tend to show higher levels of activity. It also appears to be very related to thinking about one’s self, thinking about others, as well as aspects of memory and thinking about the future.

The salience network is another network of brain regions, so named because it appears deeply linked to detecting and integrating salient emotional and sensory stimuli. (In neuroscience, saliency refers to how much an item “sticks out”). Both of these networks are also extremely important to overall cognitive function, and in super-agers, the activity in these networks was more coordinated than in their peers.

How to ensure brain health in old age

While prior research has identified some genetic influences on how “gracefully” the brain ages, there are likely activities that can encourage brain health. “We hope to identify things we can prescribe for people that would help them be more like a superager,” said Bradford Dickerson, one of the researchers in this study, in a statement. “It’s not as likely to be a pill as more likely to be recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and exercise. That’s one of the long-term goals of this study — to try to help people become superagers if they want to.”

To date, there is some preliminary evidence of ways that you can keep your brain younger longer. For instance, more education and a cognitively demanding job predicts having higher cognitive abilities in old age. Generally speaking, the adage of “use it or lose it” appears to hold true; having a cognitively active lifestyle helps to protect your brain in old age. So, it might be tempting to fill your golden years with beer and reruns of CSI, but it’s unlikely to help you keep your edge.

Aside from these intuitive ways to keep your brain healthy, regular exercise appears to boost cognitive health in old age, as Dickinson mentioned. Diet is also a protective factor, especially for diets delivering omega-3 fatty acids (which can be found in fish oil), polyphenols (found in dark chocolate!), vitamin D (egg yolks and sunlight), and the B vitamins (meat, eggs, and legumes). There’s also evidence that having a healthy social life in old age can protect against cognitive decline.

For many, the physical decline associated with old age is an expected side effect of a life well-lived. But the idea that our intellect will also degrade can be a much scarier reality. Fortunately, the existence of super-agers shows that at the very least, we don’t have to accept cognitive decline without a fight.

ABy Matt Davis @BigThink

Applied Creativity

Applied Creativity

Around 1800, Charles Barbier was an artillery officer in Napoleon’s army. One of the problems he noticed was the soldiers kept getting shot at night. This was largely because, in order to read messages, they’d use a lamp. Naturally, enemy snipers would use this as a target.

So Barbier decided they needed a safer way to communicate without light. What if they could feel the message instead of seeing it? And so he began to develop ecriture nocturne – night writing. He used a pattern of 12 dots in a rectangular shape, for each letter. It worked but it was slow and complicated for soldiers to remember. The army rejected it.

Then a 12-year-old student heard about it. He’d been blinded playing with an awl in his father’s workshop when he was a child. In 1821 he met Barbier and studied his system of night writing. The student agreed with the army, it was too complicated. But it didn’t need to be, the basic idea was good, so he simplified it. He changed the 12 dots for each letter to just six, and instead of replicating the letters of the alphabet, it took the form of shorthand.

It took him three years, but by the time he was 15 years old he had a working method of reading without sight. They boy’s name was Louis Braille, and the system he invented has been in worldwide use ever since. It allows blind people to read as fast as sighted people. In the US today, about 85,000 people are totally blind.

Of those who’ve learned Braille, 90% are employed. Of those who haven’t, only 33% are employed. Braille took something that was invented for one purpose and turned it into a completely different purpose.

That’s two different kinds of creativity.

Mike Greenlees once told me he studied pure maths at university. I said I couldn’t do that because I’m no good with numbers. Mike said pure maths wasn’t to do with numbers, pure maths was more about discovery and abstract thinking – maths for its own sake. Applied maths was when someone used these discoveries for a practical purpose. One type of person discovers something, a different type of person applies it.

And I thought, that could apply to creativity.  Pure creativity would be what you find in art galleries: creativity for its own sake. Applied creativity would be what we do: creativity with a specific purpose. We might take a painting, or a sculpture, or a piece of opera and use it to stand out and convey a message. For us it isn’t beauty for its own sake, it has to have a reason. If it doesn’t have a reason, it’s just decoration. Then it’s failed at being applied creativity by pretending to be pure creativity. 

Applied creativity has to do a job. Knowing the difference is what makes us effective. Because nothing that runs in our world should be pure creativity.

Steve Jobs was one of the most creative people in recent years. But Steve Jobs didn’t invent a single thing. He built the most valuable brand in the world by understanding the difference between pure creativity and applied creativity.
There is only now.

There is only now.

by Madisyn Taylor

Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

It can be easy for us to walk through the world and our lives without really being present. While dwelling on the past and living for the future are common pastimes, it is physically impossible to live anywhere but the present moment.

Nevertheless, we can easily miss the future we are waiting for as it becomes the now we are too busy to pay attention to. We then spend the rest of our time playing “catch up” to the moment that we just let pass by.

During moments like these, it is important to remember that there is only Now.

In order to feel more at home in the present moment, it is important to try to stay aware, open, and receptive. Being in the present moment requires our full attention so that we are fully awake to experience it. When we are fully present, our minds do not wander. We are focused on what is going on right now, rather than thinking about what just happened or worrying about what is going to happen next.

Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

When we begin to corral our attention into the present moment, it can be almost overwhelming to be here. There is a state of stillness that has to happen that can take some getting used to, and the mind chatter that so often gets us into our heads and out of the present moment doesn’t have as much to do. We may feel a lack of control because we aren’t busy planning our next move, assessing our current situation, or anticipating the future.

Instead, being present requires that we be flexible, creative, attentive, and spontaneous. Each present moment is completely new, and nothing like it has happened or will ever happen again.

As you move through your day, remember to stay present in each moment. In doing so, you will live your life without having to wait for the future or yearn for the past.

Life happens to us when we happen to life in the Now.
Purpose for the New Year.

Purpose for the New Year.

Most people assume that a purpose is the same as a goal. They work towards it as though it’s a specific destination to arrive at.

I now understand this is the wrong way to find your life purpose.

Instead, your life purpose comes from your values. It is something that has always existed inside you and just needs to be discovered.

When you think of life purpose in this way, it’s easier to define.

To help you define yours, Justin Brown put together 8 thought-provoking (yet a little weird) questions that will help you to discover your own life purpose. I encourage you to jot down your answers to each question in notes as you move through them.

8. What were you passionate about as a child?

The  games we played as children are often a gateway to our potential to excel at something when we grow up.

Think about your Barbie dolls. Did you dress them, or did you make clothes for them?

Think about your trucks and cars. Did you race around with them, or did you construct a town, complete with streets, houses, trees, shops, and garages?

What did you play for hours? Can you still relate to that? If you can, how can you incorporate that into your adult life now?

Were you advised that you should forget your childhood dreams, and do something practical with your life instead? Did you go on to study something other than what you really wanted to in university?

Do you wish that you went a different route instead?

Hidden in our childhood passions, are our gifts, the things we are naturally good at. Think back and see what treasure you can find there, which can hold the key to your life purpose.

PRO TIP: While thinking about what you were passionate about as a child, try and jot down some of your favorite memories. Write down what happened, and also importantly how you were feeling in these moments. This will help you connect with your “inner child”. Over time, your inner child will start to communicate with you about your overriding purpose in life.

7. If you didn’t have a job, how would you choose to fill your hours?

Here is something to ponder. If you didn’t have to work and you weren’t allowed to stay at home and do nothing, how would you choose to fill your time? Where would you go and what would you do?

Let’s say you use some of the time to relax and unwind and some to exercise, what would you do with the rest of your time? Would you spend the day doing something active like exploring the town, would you go to a museum or visit art galleries? Would you read, volunteer somewhere, take a class? Where would you volunteer? Which class would you take?

When money isn’t an issue, and you can devote yourself solely to your passion, what would this passion be?

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I did this exercise a few weeks ago, and realized I wanted to read more educational books. The kinds of books that help me learn more about myself and the world around me. It helped me to see that one of my values is learning. I love nothing more than experiencing an “aha moment”, a surge of inspiration when I connect the dots. My purpose is to help others experience this.

6. What makes you forget about the world around you?

Is there something that you really, really love to do? Something that makes you lose track of time?

If you have ever been completely absorbed in an activity you will understand the state of “flow” where you lose your sense of time and are completely caught up in what you are doing.

We have all experienced it. For some of us it’s the process of creating something, for others it’s organizing an event, for others, it’s taking care of other people’s needs.

When you’re completely caught up in the “flow”, you forget about time, food and drink or where you are. Being in the flow, you are intensely focused and concentrated, and there is a sense of ecstasy. There is a sense of inner clarity, and you have complete confidence in your skills. All your worries are gone, and you are completely in the present moment. Yet you can lose track of time. This sense of flow is a source of joy and a reward in itself.

When last did you experience this?

GOING DEEPER: The concept of flow is very powerful. When you know what it is, you’ll start to identify areas of your life when you experience it. This will help you uncover your purpose.

5. What issues do you hold close to your heart?

Is there a cause that you feel strongly about? What topics do you like to read about? What topics on the news do you follow, what issues do you keep returning to? What kind of websites attract you? What topics do you discuss with family and friends? Are there any that you get worked up about, that you want to do something about?

When you are passionate about something, then the work you do for this cause will be meaningful and rewarding.

PRO TIP: A useful way to think about this is identifying things that happen in your life that make you want to take a stand. It usually means some kind of boundary has been crossed. Maybe someone is treating a close friend of yours badly. Or perhaps there’s a local political issue making you want to get active. Whatever it is, we set boundaries of what’s acceptable around our values.

4. Who do you spend time with and what do you talk about?

Most of us spend time with people who share our interests and outlook on life. There might be a clue in there for you. Are you spending most of your free time with cycling buddies or just drinking buddies? Do you talk mostly about your shared passion for cycling and improving the sport or do you just chew the breeze with some friends at the local bar?

Do the people you spend your free time with help to give you an indication of your real passion?

What do you talk about? Do you find people ask you for advice? Why would people ask you for advice? Do you have any specialized knowledge? How did you come by that knowledge? Is it something that you feel is what you were meant to do?

The answers to those questions could be very illuminating.

ANOTHER WAY OF THINKING ABOUT IT: Throughout history, humans form into tribes, even in modern-day societies. What is it that connects a tribe? It’s usually a shared focus, purpose or passion. Herein lies a secret to discovering your purpose. Who are the people you’re naturally gravitating to? What are the tribes you want to be a part of? You may start to see the purpose you already have in life.

3. What is on your bucket list?

What do you want to accomplish before you die? This is another exercise that could be very soul searching. Creating a bucket list crystallizes your thinking on what you desire most in life, what you really would not like to miss out on. There is passion there. Why wait?

MY BUCKET LIST: To give you an example that hopefully gets you thinking, I want to learn to fly a plane. I love getting an aerial view of the land around me and feeling in control of my own destiny. This helps me to see that my guiding purpose is to create a system that results in independence for me.

2. If you had a dream, could you make it happen?

Give this serious thought. Even if you have a dream and never attempted it for whatever reason, it’s still a valuable window into what you regard as somehow achievable, otherwise, it would never have entered your mind.

Think of the many people who made seemingly impossible dreams become reality and take heart from that.

Who do you look up to? What is it about them that inspires you?

You can make steps towards following your life purpose right now.

Ask yourself, what is really stopping you?

There’s help everywhere. You don’t have to know everything yourself and you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can get help to make your dream come true.

Think it through. That dream and your life’s purpose is probably one and the same thing.

HERE ARE THREE EXAMPLES: J.K. Rowling was recently divorced, on government aid, and raising a baby on her own when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She was initially rejected when she first sent out her manuscript to publishers.

Ludwig van Beethoven did not allow his bad hearing and later on, complete deafness, to stop him from composing some of the most beautiful and influential music in the world.

Helen Keller was deaf and blind from the age of 19 months. Yet she was able to be educated and became an author and educator herself.

1. What are the feelings you desire right now?

This is the final and most powerful question that I believe will help you to finally discover your life purpose.

Think of the feelings that you desire right now. Is there anything you’re frustrated by for not feeling?

Exploring your own feelings opens you up to your emotions. Our emotions are often more powerful than our minds and provide us with a lot of guidance about what we really want in life.

Here’s the next step:

Once you figure out the emotions you want to experience, start to identify the areas of your life where you’re helping others to have this experience. You’re probably already doing this in little ways.

What are the feelings you desire right now, and how are they guiding you in your life purpose?

BONUS EXERCISE: I learned about the importance of finding my purpose for life in my emotions from the shaman Rudá Iandé. We were walking together on the streets of São Paulo and I told him I was finding it challenging to discover my purpose. He shared with me the importance of finding your purpose in your emotions. I immediately pulled out my video camera so I could capture it and share it with others because I saw how valuable and counter-intuitive it is. Watch the video below. It will help you discover your purpose.

A New Year, a New Normal, a New Possible, a New You.

Living Like Water.

Living Like Water.

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility.

The journey of water as it flows upon the earth can be a mirror of our own paths through life.

Water begins its residence on earth as it falls from the sky or melts from ice and streams down a mountain into a tributary or stream. In the same way, we come into the world and begin our lives on earth.

Like a river that flows within the confines of its banks, we are born with certain defining characteristics that govern our identity.

We are born in a specific time and place, within a specific family, and with certain gifts and challenges. Within these parameters, we move through life, encountering many twists, turns, and obstacles along the way just as a river flows. 

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility. When a river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on, as we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard but we always keep moving on.

Water can inspire us to not become rigid with fear or cling to what’s familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to its past, but flows onward without looking back.

At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not run away from it in fear of the dark; instead, water humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of our life rather than run away from them.  

Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gracefully and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance.

Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.