The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

TED Talks Pinned: Speaking of HapPINness

Recipes for feeling happy? Browse through the talks & sites below and decide what suits you best.

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■ Stay in the moment

About Matt Killingsworth’s TEDTalk

When are humans most happy? To answer this question, researcher Matt Killingsworth built an app, Track Your Happiness, that let people report their feelings in real time. Among the results: We’re often happiest when we’re lost in the moment.

About Matt Killingsworth

Researcher Matt Killingsworth designs studies that gather data on happiness. While doing his Ph.D. research at Harvard, Killingsworth invented the Track Your Happiness app.

He’s now a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar examining such topics as the relationship between happiness and the content of everyday experiences, the percentage of everyday experiences that are intrinsically valuable, and the degree of congruence between the causes of momentary happiness and of one’s overall satisfaction with life.

Web Resources

Related TEDTalk: Dan Gilbert on “The Surprising Science of Happiness”

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■ Slowing Down

About Carl Honoré’s TEDTalk

Journalist Carl Honoré believes our society’s emphasis on speed erodes health, productivity and quality of life. But there’s a backlash brewing, as everyday people start putting the brakes on their modern lives.

About Carl Honoré

Carl Honoré is the author of In Praise of Slowness, which dissects our speed-obsessed society and celebrates those who have gotten to slow down. Honoré is an advocate of the Slow Movement, an effort by those all over the world to decelerate the pace of their lives, with everything from “slow cities” to “slow food.” He’s also the author of the book Under Pressure.

Web Resources

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■ Less = HappIer

About Graham Hill’s TEDTalk

Can having less stuff, in less room, lead to more happiness? Writer Graham Hill makes the case for taking up less space.

About Graham Hill

Graham Hill is the CEO of LifeEdited, which works with developers to market buildings that embody small space living. Hill is also the founder of TreeHugger.com, which aims to push sustainability into the mainstream with a design-forward style.

Web Resources

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■ Misfortunes, Stops on the Road to Happiness

About Dan Gilbert’s TEDTalk

We’re doomed to be miserable if we don’t get what we want — right? Not quite, says psychologist Dan Gilbert. He says our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

About Dan Gilbert

Psychologist Dan Gilbert is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, where he runs the Hedonic Psychology Laboratory. He’s the author of Stumbling on Happiness. In the book, Gilbert argues that our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes, Gilbert says, our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy.

Web Resources

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Be Grateful

About David Steindl-Rast’s TEDTalk

We all want to be happy, says David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.

About David Steindl-Rast

David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk who writes about gratefulness. Since 1953, Brother David has been a monk of Mount Saviour Benedictine monastery in New York, dividing his time between hermitic contemplation, writing and lecturing.

He was one of the first Roman Catholics to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, and is the author of The Ground We Share, a text on Buddhist and Christian practice, written with Robert Aitken Roshi. His other books include GratefulnessThe Heart of Prayer and Deeper Than Words. His most recent book is 99 Blessings. He’s the co-founder of gratefulness.org.

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Filed under: ■ GLOBAL, ■ Happiness, ■ How to Live, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ TED, TOPICS▼

Conversation Topic: How to Live – A Life/ Business Model

The inspiration for this conversation class came to me in a less conventional way, while I was selecting materials for a course tailored toward business that had, it seemed, nothing to do with the “How to Live” topic.

Generally, there seems to be a natural progression from life models and their theories (in ELT terms, general, non-technical  English vocabulary) to business models and their theories (to business or technical English vocabulary). Having said that, I was surprised to notice the applicability of a particular business model to a topic that I could sum up as the Guidelines of “How to Live”. This business model presented in the Cambridge Coursebook Business Advantage Upper-intermediate,  in the chapter on organisational cultures. It comes from Professor Charles Handy’s  book, Understanding Organisations.  My attention was immediately drawn by one of the two types of organisational cultures presented there: the so-called role culture (p.48).

Role Culture can be pictured as a Greek temple. Role culture places its strengths in its columns. These columns represent the different departments, e.g. the finance department and the purchasing department. The work of the columns and the interactions between the columns is controlled by procedures which describe in detail what each department does and what each person does in their job by means of a job description. This structure is suited to stable environments or environments where the organization has a lot of market power, such as monopolies. The  columns are connected at the top by a narrow band of senior management. An organization with a role culture is generally believed to be very stable, but poor at implementing change and adapting to a fast-changing macro-environment.

From here to the path of metaphor was only a very small step that carried me and two different groups of students of mine from Kliny English Courses (a higher-level group and another lower-level group) on an interesting imaginative adventure. 

You can try this metaphorical path yourselves by reading the fragment on role cultures, paying attention to the underlined concepts and being ready to look for their equivalents that make up your own view of life, while bearing in mind this question:

If your intrinsic system of values that you guide your life by were to be associated with a Greek temple, what would your columns or pillars be, how would they interconnect (by what kind of procedures, waysstrategies), and what would be the innermost guiding principle you live by, the roof supported by those columns or pillars?

My students came up with some amazing answers to these and questions or suggestions like (I took the liberty to paraphrase them):

– “My main pillars are: my physical condition  and my family. I realised a while ago that I need to be fit in order to function well at home and at work on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the time I spend exercising takes me away from my family, but I am trying to balance this and everything else in my life as best I can.

– “I am afraid that I am my own pillar most of the times. It happens to me to look around for some help only to realize that I can only count on myself. It makes me think of how strong and, at times, how fragile I am.”

– “My pillars are: my ancestors or my roots, where I come from, then, second, my family, my own generation, which is my present, and third, the future of the next generations of my children’s children and also the future and preservation of our planet. Some families have famous people among their ancestry, Nobel prize winners and the like. Mine doesn’t. The most important value in my family has always been hard work. Another value that is extremely significant for me is passing on our knowledge to future generations. Sharing what I know with the younger generation is something I take great pride and pleasure in doing.”

I would like to thank my students for sharing their thoughts at our classes and for trusting me to take the path of metaphor as often as I suggest it. I would also like to thank Martin Lisboa, one of the authors of the Business Advantage Upper-intermediate coursebook whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the workshop he led in Krakow in May this past spring (Case studies on real companies – Why bother with fakes?) for his excellent contribution to the content of the coursebook and for his supportive attitude and kind appreciation of my ideas and my literary writings in English during our talk on the same occasion. 

I encourage you to think up your own answers and life view versions taking a similar metaphor path. You may wish to keep these views private or share them with people you know well or not at all. Either way, get ready to be surprised. Last but not least, enjoy!

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, 8►BUSINESS, ■ About Organisational Cultures, ■ How to Live, ►META PHORS▼, TOPICS▼

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