Embrace the Pain



To live is to suffer.

–The Buddha



But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, there must be a in meaning in suffering. … Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.

— Viktor Emil Frankl
Man’s Search for Meaning



One always finds one’s burden again. … The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.

One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

–Albert Camus
The Myth of Sisyphus



Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness



People who are happy but have little to no sense of meaning in their lives have the same [inflammatory response] as people who are responding to and enduring chronic adversity. …


Meaning was defined as an orientation to something bigger than the self.

Happiness was defined by feeling good. …


“Empty positive emotions are about as good for you for as adversity,” says Dr. Fredrickson. …


From the evidence of this study, it seems that feeling good is not enough. People need meaning to thrive. In the words of Carl Jung, “The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.” Jung’s wisdom certainly seems to apply to our bodies, if not also to our hearts and our minds.


Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness
by Emily Esfahani Smith
The Atlantic Magazine



Overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences



Overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences:

It sustains or worsens sadness, fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs a person’s ability to solve problems, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and initiative. Moreover, although people have a strong sense that they are gaining insight into themselves and their problems during their ruminations, this is rarely the case. What they do gain is a distorted, pessimistic perspective on their lives.

–Sonja Lyubomirsky
The How of Happiness



Bonus Better Than Raise




Profess Hsee of BoothMy CEO executive coaching clients frequently wonder how best to motivate and retain key employees. The question often takes the form of, “Should I give her an unscheduled bonus or a raise?” The business owner often tends toward a raise because it defers the cash outlay. My study of psychology recommends the bonus.

I have written about Professor Christopher Hsee of the Booth School of Business before. Recently he spoke explicitly about the bonus vs. raise question. “If you ask a typical employee, he or she will tell you they want the salary. But that’s because they don’t understand psychology,” Hsee said. “You should give them the bonus instead. Salary is stable and people adapt to the new salary level quickly. Bonuses are not as easy to adapt to.”

Hsee also supports my advice about giving a gift, particularly something the employee wants but might not indulge in. “Give somebody something they like but won’t (more…)

Fundamental Management is Fundamental Psychology



People have three basic wants that make them susceptible to social influence.

  1. First, people have a hedonic motive, or a desire to experience pleasure and avoid pain.
  2. Second, people have an approval motive, or a desire to be accepted and to avoid being rejected.
  3. Third, people have an accuracy motive, or a desire to believe what is true and to avoid believing what is false.

As we shall see, most forms of social influence appeal to one or more of these motives.

Page 16-22
By Schacter, Gilbert, & Wegner



See also, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, on this blog.



Hsee’s Happiness Heuristics



HappinessCompiling research from psychologists and economists (including colleague Richard Thaler), Professor Hsee provides tips on how to make the people around you—employees, significant others, friends, relatives—happy.

  1. Separate gains.
    Combine losses.
  2. Announce good news early.
    Announce bad news late.
  3. Unpredictable gains are better than stable gains.
    Stable losses are better than unpredictable losses.
  4. Choice is bad for good options,
    good for bad options.
  5. Wanted is better than needed.
    Memorable is better than usable.

Details in The University of Chicago Magazine.

Prof. Christopher K. Hsee
Chicago Booth



The Irony of Positive Thinking

Harvard's Daniel M. WegnerWhen people undertake to control their minds while they are burdened by mental loads–such as distracters, stress, or time pressure–the result [will] often be the opposite of what they intend. …

Individuals following instructions to try to make themselves happy become sad, whereas those trying to make themselves sad actually experience buoyed mood.

When people in these studies are encouraged to express their deepest thoughts and feelings in writing, they experience subsequent improvements in psychological and physical health. (See also Resistance is Futile on this blog.) Expressing oneself in this way involves relinquishing the pursuit of mental control, and so eliminates a key requirement for the production of ironic effects. After all, as suggested in other studies conducted in my lab with Julie Lane and Laura Smart, the motive to keep one’s thoughts and personal characteristics secret is strongly linked with mental control. Disclosing these things to others, or even in writing to oneself, is the first step toward abandoning what may be an overweening and futile quest to control one’s own thoughts and emotions.

When we relax the desire for the control of our minds, the seeds of our undoing may remain uncultivated, perhaps then to dry up and blow away.

The Seed of Our Undoing by Daniel M. Wegner
From Psychological Science Agenda
January/February, 1999, 10-11.