Your Personal Advent Calendar Day 9



Today’s advent window is all about you character strength of integrity.  It’s something that is much talked about in leadership forums but just precisely why is it so powerful?

Integrity comes from the Latin word “integritas” meaning wholeness.  When you are leveraging your integrity, you are being genuinely true to yourself and accurately convey your internal state, values, intentions and commitments to others.

You accept and take responsibility for your feeling and behaviours, reaping real benefits by doing so.  You are able to state your moral convictions publicly, even when they are not popular, and treat others with care.

Integrity helps you achieve goals and develop greater wellbeing by the following virtuous cycle (Sheldon & Houser-Marko, 2001):

integrity cycle

Developing your integrity also:

  • Brings social benefits – authentic persons are well liked and so are more likely to form social alliances and be able to access support (Hogkins et al, 1996)
  • Reduces stress (Pennebaker & Keough, 1999)
  • Helps foster positive mood, life satisfaction and self-actualisation (Deci & Ryan, 2000)


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Your Personal Advent Calendar Day 8 (Outstanding Leadership)


By now you should be getting the idea that playing to your character strengths improves your life in many different ways, not least helping you live longer.  But you also need to know that really tuning up your strengths can make you a dramatically better leader.

Character strengths have been proposed as the differentiating element between outstanding versus good leadership (Sosik, 2006).  It makes sense.  For example, to really perform, leaders need:

  • Bravery to face the many crises, challenges, & difficult situations associated with the strategic leadership of contemporary organisations (Luthans & Youssef, 2007).
  • Broader perspective-taking capacity (wisdom) on business issues and trends for visioning and problem solving tasks.
  • Strengths in social intelligence to effectively co-ordinate the actions of others and negotiate successfully with all the constituent parts of an organisation (Mumford, Campion, & Morgeson, 2007)

And the beauty of this is that you already have the strengths, so starting to leverage them can make a massive difference for little effort!

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Your Personal Advent Calendar Days 7 (Don’t fear fear)

braveryHappy Monday!  Having got in touch with your inner va-va-voom over the weekend, you are probably now up to your eyes in tricksy issues so Day 7 of your Personal Advent Calendar focuses on your character strength of bravery.

There’s a misconception about bravery – that it’s about being fearless.  But in actual fact, fearlessness is for the foolhardy.  Fear is a powerful emotion that alerts us to danger and so helps keeps us safe.

Bravery is the ability to do what needs to be done despite fear.  When you’re being brave, you:

  • Understand the presence of danger, loss, risk or potential injury
  • Make a judgement call and accept the potential consequences of your action

Your bravery may be physical, moral or psychological.  Moral bravery compels people to do what they think is right, despite fear of social or economic consequences (such as fear of losing friends, of embarrassment or of making enemies).  Millions of people summon psychological bravery every day, although others will be unaware of it (e.g. the depressed leader who still turns up for work to motivate and direct others).

Bravery helps you to feel good – you know that you are doing the right thing. It may help sustain close relationships because the courage required for self-disclosure and honesty go hand in hand with the fear of being hurt and rejected.

It also builds stronger ties with others: researchers have found that brave acts bring out perseverance, ingenuity, mutual aid, cohesion and social support in a community.

Developing your capacity for bravery increases your self-confidence (Finfgeld, 1999), action orientation (McCall, 1994) and sense that you are in control of what happens to you in life (Shepela et al 1999).

So the next time you feel sick at the thought of doing something, that could just be the beginnings of your bravery kicking in.

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Your Personal Advent Calendar Day 2 (You Can Reach Your Potential)


Yesterday you found out that your curiosity can help you live 30% longer.  That’s a lot of extra time for parties, holidays and luxurious lie-ins.  Next:

Advent Window 2: your second strength is Creativity

When you’re leveraging this strength, you produce ideas or behave in ways that are recognisably original and make a positive contribution to your life, or the life of others.  And you can find productive and new ways to achieve your goals.

Creativity is linked with above average intellectual ability (of course, I hear you say!).  In personality terms, creative people tend to be independent, non-conformist, unconventional and are likely to have wide interests, greater openness to new experiences, cognitive flexibility and more risk-taking boldness than average.

Psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow argued that creativity is strongly associated with healthy traits, most notably the capacity for self-actualisation (being everything you can be).

What’s in tomorrow’s advent window?

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Your Personal Advent Calendar – Day 1 (Live 30% Longer)



Who says advent calendars are just for kids?  It’s 24 sleeps till Christmas and I bet you’re counting down the days (at least till work finishes and you can get into the sherry at lunchtime blur that is the christmas hols).

So, in the absence of an ability to provide a chocolate online, there’s going to be a little digital gift each day till the 24th – a reminder about one of your strengths.

Martin Seligman and Christopher Petersen – psychology gnu’s – have completed groundbreaking research into the 24 character strengths that humans share.  Their scientific research has shown that the greater the breadth and depth of our character strengths, the more we are able to show outstanding leadership, enjoy high quality relationships,  experience greater wellbeing and live longer

We each have elements of all the strengths, although will have 3-5 key strengths that are abundantly clear to others.   You can do a full diagnostic of your own particular individual and team strengths with us but in the meantime , let’s just find out about each of the strengths.

Advent Window 1: your first strength is Curiosity

When you’re leveraging this strength, you have an intrinsic desire for experience and knowledge.  You love to find out an answer, have a new experience or learn new information.

This strength helps motivate you to initiate and sustain goal-directed behaviour.  It enables you to assimilate new information and so grow your range of responses to, or ideas about, the world.  And it facilitates complex decision making.

Curious people seem able to generate more intimacy in relationships by capitalising on the positive aspects of partners and generating interest and fun during interactions

It’s linked with intelligence, problem solving ability, autonomy, self-esteem and subjective well-being.

AND heightened curiosity can increase your chances of longer life by 30%, according to a recent study funded by the US National Institute of Aging.

Check in tomorrow for the next advent window

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Why Forgiveness Boosts Resilience


Yesterday, as I was driving home, it was announced on the news that Oskar Groening, a 94-year-old former guard at Auschwitz, had been sentenced to 4 years in jail for being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews.

The announcement was followed by an incredibly moving interview with Eva Moses Kor, survivor of Auschwitz who lost 119 members of her family in the Holocaust and was experimented on by Dr Josef Mengele.

She has publicly forgiven Groening and, at his trial, she shook hands and accepted a kiss from him.  She has also forgiven “all Nazis” for what they did.   She notes that forgiving does not absolve the perpetrators of their own guilt or suffering but it set her free and enabled her to move beyond thinking of herself as a victim.

“I believe with every fibre of my being that every human being has the right to live without the pain of the past. For most people there is a big obstacle to forgiveness because society expects revenge. It seems we need to honour our victims but I always wonder if my dead loved ones would want me to live with pain and anger until the end of my life.”

“Forgiveness is really nothing more than an act of self-healing and self-empowerment. I call it a miracle medicine. It is free, it works and has no side effects.”

This is forgiveness on a humbling scale.  Yet it serves as a great reminder of how forgiveness is a key factor in resilience – the effective recovery from difficulties so you can move forward positively.

Forgiveness is one of the 24 Character Strengths associated with life satisfaction, health and personal success.

Forgiveness actively undoes hatred and allows people to move forward successfully.  For example, a research-based forgiveness training program in Rwanda was linked to reduced trauma and more positive attitudes between the Hutus and Tutsis there. A study of people who learned forgiveness skills in war-torn Sierra Leone found that they reported feeling less depressed, more grateful, more satisfied with life, and less stressed afterward.

Research suggests that forgiving others can make people feel happy, especially when they forgive someone to whom they feel close.  It’s good for wellbeing too.  When we forgive, our stress levels drop.  This is the opposite of holding a grudge, which causes our blood pressure to increase and, according to some studies, compromises our immune system, making us less resistant to illness.

Forgiveness sustains relationships: If we feel hurt or disappointed, holding a grudge makes us less likely to sacrifice or cooperate with others, reducing trust and commitment, so driving us further apart. Studies suggest that forgiveness can stop this downward spiral and repair relationships before they dissolve.

And forgiveness elevates others; we are moved by the strength of the action and contact something deep longing within our own selves to be better and nobler.

Forgiveness is just one of the 24 Character Strengths that help people be more resilient.  Nurturing Character Strengths leads to more personal fulfilment at work, better performance and stronger, more authentic organisations.  Contact us to find out more about how you can achieve more success by building your strengths.



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Stop trying to be happy


Ask most people about what’s most important in life and you will invariably hear “I just want to be happy”.  Happiness is also a key factor for businesses seeking to increase employee engagement. But happiness is a bit of a conundrum.  It’s a relative term: you can’t know it unless you also know a whole range of relative emotions such as sadness, joy and excitement.  You don’t appreciate it unless it is, to some extent, special.  Actively seeking it doesn’t create it.

So, how do you get happier?  How do you increase happiness at work?

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Resilience: Option B

Handling Hyper-connectivity: Sheryl Sandberg

“Tragedy does not have to be personal, pervasive or permanent, but resilience can be. We can build it and carry it with us throughout our lives.”

Sheryl Sandberg


When we run Resilience programmes, there is a point, usually at morning break, where people start to open up about their own personal stories of tough times.  Whether about gut-twisting stress, relentless pressure or personal tragedy, these bring home the reality that life is rarely smooth and everyone needs the skills and support to stay resilient through it.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No. 2 executive has just written an amazing book – “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” – about her own searing experience following the sudden death of her husband and what helped her get through.

She describes her own devastating grief and how she felt unable to protect her children from theirs. How, on arriving at the cemetery for their father’s funeral, the children “got out of the car and fell to the ground, unable to take another step. I lay on the grass, holding them as they wailed,”

And she acknowledges “how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home.”

She found solace and support when she shared her feelings via a Facebook post and was met with a surge of people reaching out to her to share their own experiences of loss.

Sandberg discusses the personal and organisational skills and policies that help people deal with difficulties including allowing employees more time off after the death of a loved one, supporting people once they are back at work and reminding them that their contributions are needed and welcome.

And she is a strong believer in pre-traumatic growth – people’s ability to build up resilience before something bad happens so that they can deal with it better

And why call the book “Option B”? Just after her husband died, Sheryl was making plans for a friend to fill in for a father-child activity.

She cried and said to the friend, “But I want Dave.”

He put his arm around her and said, “Option A is not available. So, let’s just kick the s— out of Option B.”


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Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

richest peopleSomething to make you feel better this weekend: if you earn £40k a year, you’re in the top 0.29% of the richest people in the world; if you earn £80k, you’re in the top 0.08%.  UK workers on the minimum wage are still in the top 6% of the world’s richest people*

So, remembering that:

  • you’re already rich
  • he/she who dies with the most toys is, nonetheless, dead

what are the areas of your life you always promise yourself you’ll focus on “once you’ve made it/got enough”?

What could you do to indulge one of them this weekend?




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Flourishzone Welcomes Paula Reid


We are delighted to welcome Paula to the flourishzone team.  She typifies a person who is flourishing in life.  Described as “a female Bear Grylls”, she’s sailed around the world and skied to the South Pole (plus done bog snorkeling – but that might be a bit too much detail at this stage!).

Positive, professional and performance focused, Paula also has 20+ years’ business experience and is completing a Master’s Degree in Positive Psychology and Coaching, specialising in mental toughness, resilience and post-traumatic growth.

paula head shot

She believes in humanising business – making work enjoyable, energising and engaging for all involved – and enabling people to rise to the multiple challenges of succeeding in today’s business climate.

Embodying resilience, she is able to convey first-hand the power of positive thinking and mental toughness – the need to “step up, not give up”, choose your attitude and stay goal focused.

Paula believes that we are all much more capable than we realise, and if we step up into the stretch zone, we become more skilled, resilient and confident. She herself admits to 31 named fears – from dying, to frost bite, to peeing in -40 degrees – when she skied full distance to the South Pole in a 46 day expedition recently. But she did it. And she did it with a debilitating cold injury called ‘Polar Thigh’ which made the expedition 3x harder than it already was. She puts her success down to 80% psychology, beliefs and attitudes and 20% physical fitness, actions and behaviours.

A skilled programme leader, coach and speaker, she is at her best when she empowering and inspiring others.  So much so, we are now off to put our snorkels on and get in the nearest bog….

Welcome Paula, it’s going to be fantastic working with you!

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