A recent article describing Sir David Tang's observations about optimism as the cure for the global economic meltdown is one of the most important messages delivered in the past three months. You can read it in its entirety here. It deserves far more exposure, in my opinion.
Sir David makes several wise observations, including the need to distinguish value and cost, to recognize that size and importance are not the same thing, and to appreciate that productive work is one the most important "assets" we have. Notice that productive work is not the same as making money. People who trade paper derivatives on wall street make money, but their work is not productive in the sense that it adds much value to the world.
There are not more educated people as a result of trading derivatives, no new houses, roads or labor saving products as a result of the work of those financiers, and no entertaining poems, or beautiful planted trees to decorate the landscape. Nor, indeed, are there well made clothes, shoes, or cars that provide useful benefits to society as a result of such work. If work is done only to make money, no real tangible wealth is created. It's just paper that can be traded for products and services that represent real work. Often, this wealth comes at another person's expense.
Work that produces something of value for the world is work that gives the doer a sense of contribution and pride. When that work goes away, people lose meaning and become depressed. People without productive work are among the unhappiest people in the world, not because they lack money, but because they lack the work itself. As a result, they can lose hope and become pessimists.
Sir David Tang notes that pessimists have a way of creating more pessimism. And when people are pessimistic, they often create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they believe there is no future, they begin to act in ways that creates that dismal outcome. On the other hand, laughter and optimism are equally contagious and inspire hope and actions that create better futures. Humans in groups have the power to create optimism or pessimism.
There is abundant research in the psychological literature that demonstates the value of optimism. Few if any of these studies discuss optimism and economic outlook, but many show that optimistic people are more resilient, live longer, and are able to influence their own healing. Studies show that optimists make the best salespeople. While their mood probably makes them seem more approachable or engaging, their belief in making the sale also makes them more engaged and persistent. Sales success requires persistence.
Besides, optimists are more fun to be around. Economic stimulus packages that create jobs double the return on their investment. Why? Because the result can not only be people with the ability to earn money for rent, food and clothes, but more importantly people who feel better about themselves and their futures because they are doing productive work.
DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.
Great Links About What, How, Why, Where and How Often People Do Things
- Calculate your Life Expectancy
- O*Net - A terrific resource to get information about work related occupations
- Wisdom—A must see project of shared experience
- Brian R Little- About Personal Projects
- Authentic Happiness - Take the Work-Life Questionnaire
- wdydwdyd? (Why do you do what you do?)
- Calculate your weekly Time Use
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -American Time Use Survey
- ► February (7)
Interesting Books about Doing and Not Doing
- Bateson, Mary Catherine—Composing a Life
- Bruner, Jerome—Acts of Meaning: Four Lectures On Mind and Culture
- Christiansen, Charles & Townsend, Elizabeth—Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living
- Csíkszentmihályi, Mihaly— Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- Diener, Ed, & Biswas-Diener, Robert—Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.
- Edgell, Stephen—The Sociology of Work: Continuity and Change in Paid and Unpaid Work
- Gini, Al—The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon—Whereever You Go, There You Are
- Little, Brian; Salmela-Aro, Katerina; and Phillips, Susan D. — Personal Projects Analysis: Goals, Actions and Human Flourishing
- Matuska, K & Christiansen, C. — Life Balance -Multidisciplinary Theories and Research
- McAdams, Dan P. —The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self
- Robinson, John & Godbey, Geoffrey — Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time
- Seligman, Martin—Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
- Tolle, Eckhart—The Power of Now