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Source: Happy faces carved from bamboo, photo taken by me in HoiAn, Vietnam

The “As if Principle” by Richard Wiseman

When you get angry in the workplace, how would you react? Some anger management programs suggest an anger management room where employees can kick a do-do doll and get it out of their system, rather than bottle everything inside.

Psychologist Brad Bushman from Iowa University carried out several experiments on how feelings of anger can be squashed by acting like a calm person.

Bushman demonstrated the calming power of prayer. He angered a group of Christian college students by giving them extremely negative feedback about their work and then asked them to read a newspaper article about a woman with a rare form of disease. Next, he had 2 groups.
1) some were asked to spend 5 min putting their hands together and pray for the woman.
2) some were asked to think about her

The experiment showed that those who prayed were significantly less angry than those who thought about the woman.

Wiseman suggested:
1) Acting in a relaxed and calm way produced relaxed and calming thoughts
2) Smiling can make you feel happy. Acting in a calm fashion will quickly make you feel calm
3) Try deep breathing.

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Have you noticed that when you’re having a bad day, everyone seems to be out to get you and irritate you?

According to John Bates from “The Art of People” by Dave Kerpen, we all have mirror neurons that mirror the emotions of the person speaking to us.

Someone’s bad mood can rub off on you.

A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another animal.

We are social
Thus the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.

If you’re a public speaker and you take the stage in a bad mood, your audience will likely sense it and become a “bad” audience, Dave Kerpen advises.

Point to note when going for your next interview. If you’re nervous and tense, the interviewer can sense and become a bad interviewer.

However, if you happen to chance an interviewer who’s not in the best of mood, my suggestion is to resist the temptation to mirror his/her mood.

Instead, rise above the situation and hopefully your positiveness will be mirrored by the other person’s mirror neuron.

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Photo: Taken by me at the 2017 Edible Gardens Festival, Hort Park, Singapore.

Life is a shipwreck but don’t forget to sing in the lifeboats. – Voltaire

Have you given this answer when asked “Tell me about your weakness”. That you are a perfectionist.

According to Sharon Begley, author of books such as “The Mind and the Brain”, “The Plastic Mind” and “Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions“, many of the creative types have traces of OCD and anxiety in them.

Her book begins with a story of blind John Milton who wrote the epic 10,000 plus lines of “Paradise Lost” by dictating his lines crafted at night and memorised until daylight broke, to one of his three daughters. Milton had a palpable need to be unburdened of the memorised lines of verse that filled him with anxiety until he could be “milked”. Hemingway described himself the same way “When I don’t write, I feel like shit”. Vincent Van Fogh produced more than 200 paintings of sunflower in a short span of time equivalent to one painting every 34hrs.

Begley observed that these geniuses’ work sprang from a “deep creative impulse and genius” that also came from something “deeper, darker, more tortured”. Driven to keep the psychic pain away. Compulsions so desperate and tortured.

Who exactly is a perfectionist?

Begley cites Caroline Meyer of Loughborough University in a 2011 study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders discovered a link between perfectionism and compulsive exercise. The falling short of perfection provokes anxiety which only the compulsive behavior can quiet – the result is a compulsion to work out to a self destructive extreme.

Is there a difference between addiction and compulsion?

Addiction begins with a flash of pleasure overlaid by an itch if danger. It’s fun to gamble or drink and puts you at risk. You like how you feel when you win.

Compulsion in contrast is about avoiding unpleasant outcomes. They are born in anxiety and remain strangers to joy. Such behavior is repeated to relief the angst brought about by negative consequences. “If I don’t do this, something terrible will happen.”

Note: Perfectionists have the potential to self destruct. Not a good answer in a job interview.

Begley cites another creative type, Joan Rivers who was working very hard just before she died in 2014. Rivers worked as compulsively as a kid trying to break into show business.

Begley went on to observe that the compulsion to do good in the world can “emanate from as many sources as a river of snow melt water “. Positive such as seeing one’s work make an impact in the lives of others, or a sense of connectedness. Or negative forces such as a repulsive force of anxiety.

Drive to work can come from the anxiety that no one will do a job as competently as you will. Or an anxiety that comes from contemplating one’s own mortality or the existence of suffering in the world and saying “not on my watch”? What compels people to do good?

What compels people to create?
According to Marcy Seaham, who advises corporations on creativity there are 4 temperaments that drives people to create.
1. Artisan/ improviser – restlessness from feeling “Ive had enough” of this way of doing things or imperfect device
2. Catalysts/ idealists are restless as long as things dont change. Impelled by curiosity.
3. Creativity comes from enjoyment of mastery and accomplishment. “Incompetence and stupidity makes them restless.” Perception of themselves as not accomplishing.
4. Guardians/ Stabilisers feel restless when things are not going smoothly.

Conclusion

A very well written book, except that what’s amiss in my view is any attempt to help those of us who suspect we may have some secret compulsive behavior. Her aim is to create a “realization that there is no bright line between mental illness and mental normality”.

You’ve succeeded Ms Begley. Now every colleague looks suspiciously having OCD traits. Including myself.

Next time you describe yourself as a perfectionist in an interview, think again. You may be revealing more than you should.

I’m at a little cafe “Tiann’s” in Tiong Bahru doing my weekly marketing in the wet market.

I ordered two lattes, each costing $6.50 pricier than the delicious wanton noodles we had for breakfast. I’m going to nurse this latte.

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I want to know. How do you trick your brain into exercising?

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Look at this young overachiever at the recent car-free Sunday in the Central Business District.

Ready for Young’s suggestions?

1. Meditative Pace allows development of ideas

Charles Darwin’s strolls in Kent were important in development of ideas. The world’s greatest naturalist was a collector of stones. Not just a love of nature or departing from the maddening crowd. It’s “exercise in reflection – a kind of moving meditation”.

According to Young, exercise encourages innovation and problem-solving. He doesn’t refer you to these studies for you to digest and chew but presents ideas for consumption.

Walking (and jogging), rather than other forms of sports, is at a “more contemplative pace” and allows your senses to interplay with a tactile , vibrant world (as long as you’re not in a gym. But then you can read on your ipad or watch the news as I’m prone to do.)

This allows for a mood for creativity. If you’re walking on the streets of city life, try doing so without headphones, cautioned Young to prevent pedestrian deaths.

Loosen your mind and give it interesting things to contemplate in this state.

2. Vigorous sports promotes a sense of self

In recounting Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, Young presents that in addition to toning muscles and increasing the heart’s efficency, exercise and competitions offers a firmer idea of “self” associated with bodily effort. Giving us someone to beat and offering us a comparison “self against others”.

Even if you’re an onlooker, we feel the pleasure in our success. (I guess for the team you’re rooting for. Is that the reason why so many people watch football? Not just for betting.)

Unlike Greek gods, we humans have a short life span. “The gods may feel no sorrow, but as should be accounted happy and worthy of song if boldness and power have gained him the greatest prize for the might of hand and foot.”

Pride in exercise. Not just fitness but a keen sense of our responsibility. We cannot wait for God to give us our souls – the self is something we must continually and consciously create.

(Forget for a moment that the existentialist author Albert Camus comited suicide). Recounted by Young, Camus once argued that Sisyphus rolling up the boulder to the hill for eternity, was happy because it was his rock. His duty and his task. Only we are the rock. Maybe so. I’ll leave youto nurse your latte over that one.

3. Transforming agony into art. Think “ballet”. Young cites martial arts and ballet that these art forms change the meaning of pain. As the meaning changes, so does the pain itself. For Descartes, the body is basically a machine. It’s not fused with the mind but made of a separate substance.

Pain is purely a mechanical process of stimulation and transmission. The brain’s job as a thinking substance is simply to receive it.

There are 9 other ideas captured in the book. My latte is finished. I encourage you to finish the book and tell me the rest.

I checked out Damon Young’s blog post. He is a philosopher and has written a book on gardening and philosophy. Can’t wait to check it out.
http://damon-young.blogspot.sg/p/philosophy-in-garden-why-did-marcel.html?m=1

What you observe creates your reality.

Those of us who drive know the danger of blind spots and the need for side mirrors.

According to Shawn Achor of “Before Happiness“, a reality at work based on only one vantage point is limited and full of blind spots and that prevents forward movement.

Achor suggests that the perspective is in the details. He cites Dr Irwin Braverman, a professor at Yale School of Medicine and Linda Friedlaender, the curator at the Yale Centre for British Art who came up with an exercise that helped doctors improve a skill that actually could save lives.

In the midst of training, students were taken to an art museum to see the world in multiple dimensions.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the students who took this class exhibited a 10% improvement in their ability to detect important medical details.

“Once they are able to see this wider rave of details, they were better able to leverage their IQ and EQ and all their other cognitive abilities to knit these details together and see previously missed connections.

Those details were the vantage points that broadened their perspective and made them more successful in their work. ”

Achor notes that in medicine , as in all professions, it is easy to get stuck seeing things from only one vantage point and approach problems with a broader and deeper perspective.

He gave the example of a doctor who observes the lips of a patient and noticed something all other doctors missed and saved the patient’s life.

Seeing reality from different angles can allow us to open our eyes to a broader range of opportunities and connect more deeply with our team and family.

Please also catch Shawn Achor’s very humorous TED talk.

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Broken pot becomes a work of art. At the 2016 Singapore Garden Festival.

Does venting help with anger management?

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Painting by Thai artist Tang Chang at the National Gallery, Singapore. The painting was painted in remembrance of the brutal police oppression in Thailand in 1973.

http://www.amazon.com/Originals-How-Non-Conformists-Move-World/dp/0525429565

Psychologist Brad Bushman designed an experiment to make people angry. He found that venting doesn’t extinguish the flame of anger, it feeds it. When we vent our anger we put 😠a lead foot on the gas pedal of the go system, attacking the target who enraged us.

Instead, focusing on the victim activates what psychologists call empathetic anger – the desire to right wrongs done unto others.

Research demonstrates that when we are angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge.

But when we’re angry for others, we seek out injustice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.

Next time when someone makes you angry, don’t think about the countless times s/he has disrepected you or disregard your feelings. That’s a sure way of exploding. Instead, think about why this person is a victim of his or her circumstances/ stress. Focus on what can be done.

Adam Grant concludes his chapter on those who championed women suffrage and minority rights that “becoming original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.

“Originals – how non conformists move the world” by Adam Grant

Recently I saw a young man explode because his dish was accidentally cleared by an old cleaner. It was obvious that it was the old man’s first few days at work and he made a mistake. Instead of confronting the young man to give the guy a break, I slipped money for him to buy another plate. Berating him for showing his temper over something so insignificant and cheap like a $4 plate of rice will only embarrass him and not change the world. Surprisingly he accepted the money. Perhaps he’s under dire circumstances as well.

What would you do? Something similar happened recently and someone chose to take a video for the whole world to see.
http://mothership.sg/2016/06/food-rage-lady-gives-her-side-of-the-story-says-she-had-a-cold-that-day/

“A Whack on the side of the Head” referred by my favourite authors as a book for creatives is in its 25th anniversary of printing.

Author Roger van Oech has a number of creative exercises to open our mental lock through use of ambiguity or paradox by Chinese idiom and Japanese koan and Greek oracles / riddles from Heraclitus.

Heraclitus was a philosopher born in Ephesus. You may be familiar with his oft-quoted wisdom “you never step into the same river twice”. Roger van Oech introduces some of them for us to exercise some brain gym to look for more than one meaning to understand our issues.

Wisdom of Heraclitus*

1. The cosmos speaks in patterns

2. Expect the unexpected, or you won’t find it.

3. Everything flows

4. You can’t step into the same river twice
– you are not the same person and it will not be the same experience.

5. That which opposes produces a benefit
– enemies serve a useful purpose : they tell us when to change direction.

6. A wonderful harmony is created when we join together the seemingly unconnected

7. If all things turned to smoke, the nose would become the discerning organ

8. The sun will not exceed its limits, because the avenging Furies, ministers of Justice, would find out

9. Lovers of wisdom must open their minds to very many things

10. I searched into myself
– Know thyself? Your strengths and weaknesses? Sun Tzu’s Know yourself and know your enemies and you’ll not lose a hundred battles.

11. Knowing many things doesn’t teach insight

12. Many fail to grasp what’s right in the palm of their hand
– Appreciate what’s before you. The solution may be right in front of you

13. When there is no sun, we can see the evening stars
– Every cloud has a silver lining ?

14. The most beautiful order is a heap of sweepings piled up at random
– ???

15. Things love to conceal their true nature

16. Those who approach life like a child playing a game, moving and pushing pieces, possess the power of kings

17. Sea water is both pure and polluted: for the fish it is drinkable and life-giving, for the humans undrinkable and destructive
– one man’s meat is another man’s poison

18. On a circle, an end point can also be a beginning point

19. It is disease that makes health pleasant, hunger that makes fullness good, and weariness that makes rest sweet

20. The doctor inflicts pain to cure suffering

21. The way up and the way down are one and the same
-success can create situations that undermine our original intentions and end up creating bigger problems than the ones we started with. The author suggests that in the mid-1960s, the Japanese resort town of Atami lobbied hard to get high speed bullet train link to Tokyo, then 3 hrs away. After the railway was completed, tourism declined – in part because the romance of going away for the weekend was lost in a place that could be reached in only fifty minutes.

22. All things rest by changing

23. The barley-wine drink falls apart unless it is stirred
– People need to be inspired into action. If you see something not done. Stir others up to champion a cause

24. While we are awake, we share one universe, but in sleep we each turn away to a world of our own

25. Dogs bark at what they don’t understand
– Don’t throw pearls before swine

26. Donkeys prefer garbage to gold

27. Every walking animal is driven to its purpose with a whack
– Carrot and stick. Sometimes stick works or people won’t move to their goals.

28. There is a greater need to extinguish arrogance than a blazing fire

29. Your character is your destiny

30. The sun is new each day
– Don’t wallow in the mud. Pick yourself up and start again.

A whack on the Head, by Roger von Oech

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/02/geography_of_genius_you_can_t_teach_creative_thinking.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top