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Universities and the Universe

posted Oct 5, 2016, 8:41 AM by Sandeep Kulshrestha

The word University comes from the Latin Universitas which means "The Whole". In Hindi, we use the term "Vishwa Vidhyalaya" or a "Global School". Hence the original idea was to have a place or an Institution where an Individual would learn just about anything from Literature to Science to Religion and Philosophy. This was the concept which built world class Institutions and the Reneissance period saw the peak of Creative pursuits as far as the Universal education was concerned.


Positive Psychology at work: Culture of Gratitude

posted Apr 16, 2015, 5:21 AM by Sandeep Kulshrestha

“Those who have the ability to be grateful are the ones who have the ability to achieve greatness.” 
― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

Positive Psychology is the study of human behavior with an objective of defining happiness and well-being. Although in its nascent stage, it is one of the most talked of branch or extension of Psychology in the recent times. The founder of Positive Psychology movement in the west, Dr. Martin Seligman has worked on a repository of “Character strengths” and Gratitude is one of 24 character strengths which also include Forgiveness, Humility, and Honesty etc. (Ref: http://www.viacharacter.org/) As per viacharacter.org, There are two types of gratitude:

  • Benefit-triggered gratitude- the state that follows when a desired benefit is received from a benefactor.
  • Generalized gratitude- the state resulting from awareness and appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to yourself.

Both of the above can be ingrained in Organizations and gratitude can be practiced as an overall organizational virtue. Organizations are changing and they should, or else there would be stagnation at all fronts. There is a great deal of talk on aligning people with culture these days and corporations are all gearing up and competing to provide better facilities, engagement activities etc for the employees so that they would be more efficient and productive and deliver work with a benchmark of “peak performance”. Having said that, there is one component of our human character which is displayed comparatively less at the workplace and that is Gratitude. In very rare occasions, people say words of gratification to the seniors and the peers. Although very few people would have studied gratitude as a research topic, my experience in Human Resources has been really fascinating when it comes to gratitude and I encouraged people to showcase gratitude as I firmly believe that it is strong character strength and not a perceived weakness. In various small ways one can express gratitude and it can form one of the bases of the human resources framework. Some of the tips may include the following;

Making it as a part of employee on-boarding

This might not work with various conservative organizations like law firms and consulting business but if as a policy statement it is informed to the new employees that “our organization values gratitude” or say, “we encourage people to encourage others with words of gratitude”. This can be a statement which would project your organization which values team work, autonomy and accomplishments which are well appreciated.

Having a “month of gratitude”/”week of gratitude”

Well, this is rather an interesting exercise which can be initiated by the Human Resources or Talent Management Team. Organizations can either choose a “month of Gratitude” once a year of a “week of gratitude” every month and I prefer the latter as every month gives an opportunity to express gratitude. As a part of this activity, there can be one specific town hall meeting, hosted by a particular team who volunteers and everyone can be invited over coffee, expressing gratitude to each other. This can also run into the online formats through intranets/email messages. It is also in conjunction with the Positive Psychology concept of finding “meaning” at work. If your colleagues and peers are appreciating not only your work but yourself, as a person in your own right, it may attach some meaning to your work aspirations. As a part of this, employees can perhaps post a note of gratitude at somebody’s desk or post it in any creative way (maybe on a person’s back J)

The last work day of the month “Gratitude Lunch”

If companies have budgets or if it has an existing cafeteria, one day can be celebrated as “Gratitude Lunch day” with some small gifts roped in (say, like felicitation cards). This may be hosted by top/senior management as a token of gratitude to all employees who sweat and toil in making the organization competitive and efficient. This can be perhaps one of the best employee alignment tools one can think of. Though a small gesture, it makes employees feel happy and appreciated and it goes the long way in retaining your best performers. This is like saying, "because of all of your efforts we are, what we are"

Like this, there can be various other ways in which Gratitude can be a part of your organizational culture, not merely just for the sake of tokenism but as a journey towards creating a productive yet happy organization

The mindset of Compassion

posted Dec 19, 2013, 1:53 AM by Sandeep Kulshrestha   [ updated Dec 19, 2013, 5:13 AM ]


Of all the human virtues, compassion is very difficult to imbibe in day to day life. Perhaps this is something all of us feel at some point or the other but are not able to sustain it. Also, at times we comprehend this as a negative trait, which belittles our hope to be assertive

According to The Dalai Lama, “Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek”. This is true as compassion leads to other positive emotions, few among them include happiness, gratitude, patience, kindness and acceptance. The literary meaning of compassion is empathy towards others but then I feel that there is no fine line between empathy and pity. For me compassion means thinking of happiness for others and accepting people as they are and being kind to them, while trying to be non-judgmental. Compassion, for me is a tool of strength and I believe that a mindset of Compassion can be developed and nurtured, either through self contemplation or through a help of a life coach/positive psychologist.

There are some pointers, although debatable, which may lead you on in getting near the compassionate mindset;

 

1.    Imagine the magnanimity of the Universe: When you imagine yourself being a small part of a magnanimous and mysterious Universe, small and frivolous issues really don’t bother and you would become more humble. You can do a daily meditation which can connect you to the Universe. One is available on this YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fco9TzTMhyU

The reason I mentioned it has to do with the humbleness and humility this experience can bring. One may also relate our mortality to this theory as well. When we know that we have a fixed number of years to live on this planet, would we let them go waste? If one can’t think of being compassionate ever, it is like wasting the very life we are living.

2.   Think of all loved ones with Gratitude: It so happens that we get disillusioned with our loved ones, either because of something we experience while interacting with them or by building unreal perceptions (the latter happens more frequently). However, if we sit quietly as soon as we get up in the morning, at a comfortable place, over a cup of hot tea or coffee, we can just think of joyful moments we had with same loved ones in the past and then ask ourselves this question as to whether we had built a perception about those people which was not true at all. This is a very simple yet profound exercise which has helped me in the past.

3.   Start accepting people as they are: I have a friend who is very moody as well as straightforward but he is a nice person to know, if one understands him holistically and he is very compassionate and warm. Some of his relatives perceive him to be calculative and clever and this is what is intriguing to me as I never felt that he is like that. Later through my own observations I concluded that sometimes in the normal course of life we build perceptions about people, which makes it difficult to accept a person as he/she is in reality and negative perceptions somehow have multiplying effect. When we have a negative perception about any person, we start adding more fuel to the thoughts and start believing in our perceptions. When we accept a person as he or she is, with all virtues and weaknesses, we will become more compassionate and kinder towards that person. We should all do this as quickly as possible before it is too late (if applicable in anyone’s situation)

4.   Keep your brain free of clutter: If we are not compassionate, our perceptions will make us self-pity ourselves. The people who consider others as bad are themselves into a denial and self-pity mode (example: I am always good to that person but he doesn’t treat me well). If you are full of compassion, you will use your brain for better purposes and in creating happiness for yourself and others.

5.   Avoid negative emotions (to the extent possible): What happens when we expect a person to act rationally and he/she starts behaving irrationally? For example you call a friend and ask him/her to lend you some money. That person doesn’t have any money available so he/she starts avoiding the one who was asking for it, although they have been long time friends, usually chatting few days in a week. This avoidance is due to the fact that this person doesn’t want to hurt anyone by saying “no” and this is a perfectly accepted human trait! So, do not correlate any negative emotion with the lack of response and start thinking on “high dose of self-inflicted perception (HDSIP)”. According to my theory, HDSIP is a disorder which is present in many people and originates from a chaotic and stressed mind. Let no negative emotion affect you especially in a case where the people involved are close to you. Start thinking beautifully about that person and remember the “Index of Good Times”, which is nothing but our good memories about people in our life.

6.   Read simple spiritual books/hear discourses: There are a lot of simple books on compassion, happiness and related themes and hundreds of videos available on YouTube. I am personally fond of books/discourses by The Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Osho and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev but you may find your own inspiration. These inspirational thoughts, if practiced and implemented in day to day life bring beautiful results and also enrich us in developing our own thinking abilities

I end this article with a quote from Phil Jackson, “Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart”

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