The Doctor of Philosophy and Psychology from Harvard opened the World Business Forum Madrid 2022 by presenting some of the psychological keys to leading large work teams and gaining well-being.
There are only two types of people in the world who do not feel fear, frustration, anger, anxiety, or rage: psychopaths and the dead. It was with this excellent metaphor that Tal Ben-Shahar opened his opening conference of the new edition of the World Business Forum Madrid 2022. The Harvard professor, specialist in a subject as complex and abstract as individual happiness and author of several bestsellers, pointed out that even today, before going on stage, he felt nervous (and therefore unhappy) about speaking in front of hundreds of people.
” When I started teaching, my biggest challenge was to face my deep introversion“, he confessed. ” I’m shy and I get quite nervous when I have a big audience in front of me. But instead of trying to suppress those emotions, I think about how lucky I am. At least I tell myself that I’m not a psychopath and that I’m alive“, he said, in reference to his previous comment. Indeed, Tal Ben-Shahar thinks that the best way to access happiness is unhappiness. And, in this sense, we must allow ourselves to feel human, this kind of living beings who feel emotions, both positive and negative, and who are afraid of death, of disappearing.
“We have a lot of potential that is lost through lack of knowledge, and that’s why the science of happiness I’m involved in is so relevant.”
The Professor of Happiness, as he is often called in big business and academic circles, has pointed out that it is these negative emotions that make us stronger, just as when you continuously strain a muscle, it becomes stronger. big after a few days. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, a philosopher would say. Tal Ben-Shahar borrowed Nassim Taleb’s concept of antifragility to apply these findings on human happiness to the business world, as he is one of the most sought-after advisors and lecturers by leaders of large multinational corporations around the world. .
Antifragile times and vulnerable leaders
” It turns out that we have anti-frailty systems around us and within us.“, he continued, a concept he also equated with resilience, so fashionable since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. ” We are all an anti-fragile physical and psychological system“, and then he asked the audience to raise their hands for those who had heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. Much of the audience complied with the professor’s request and, shortly after, Tal Ben-Shahar asked them the same thing again, but this time with the term post-traumatic growth. Then only two people raised their arms.
“Accepting that I am vulnerable does not mean resignation, but rather active acceptance of the emotion that hurts us”.
” Why has everyone heard of post-traumatic disorder, but not of post-traumatic growth?“says the happiness and leadership expert. ” Most people don’t know it exists, you just have to deploy the physical and psychological conditions for it to happen. We have a lot of potential that is lost through lack of knowledge, which is why the science of happiness that I practice is so relevant, especially in times of difficulty or uncertainty.“. And more, as he later remarked, ” for people in high-responsibility positions in their company“.
Giving yourself permission to feel human, for Tal Ben-Shahar, is also synonymous with admitting your own vulnerability. ” Those who can’t cry with all their heart don’t know how to laugh either.“, he said, quoting the historic Israeli politician Golda Meir. ” Accepting that I am vulnerable is not resigning, but actively accepting the emotion that hurts us and then choosing what our decision is.“. There are no good or bad emotions, I am not a bad person because I feel envy or anger. This will be determined by the path I take after feeling this emotion, the actions I take. Courage doesn’t mean stopping feeling fear, but giving yourself permission to let the emotions flow freely within me.
growth and happiness
How to feel more human, how to give free rein to this vulnerability and at the same time not resign oneself to it? The professor was adamant: giving himself permission to cry, expressing his emotions to others, or sharing them with himself through writing. These are the three ways to become strong through antifragility, as they all involve a hormonal release that makes us feel better and more relaxed. In addition, ” happiness is contagious, so those around us will feel better and more inspired if we give ourselves permission to feel“.
Tal Ben-Shahar continued his talk with concrete examples and advice on how to lead teams in an environment of risk and uncertainty. ” Our circumstances are important, but our vocation and our motivation can make the difference” , he added. And in this sense, he criticized that many great business leaders cannot afford to express emotions or feel human, because their position of responsibility towards their customers and employees prevents them to show signs of vulnerability. He therefore advocated the value of physical and psychological recovery.
Best advice for successful and positive leadership: “ Find the space and time to be yourself” , did he declare. ” Just like a tired muscle that needs to recover after exercise, so does our mind, and that means finding micro and macro moments of psychological recovery that involve talking to someone you trust or writing in a newspaper every evening. »
Additionally, Tal Ben-Shahar recommended dancing, as it represents a very positive conjunction between body and mind: “ Our bones and muscles move, we socialize with other people, and most importantly, it’s impossible not to smile when we dance. Finally, he advocated for personal and collective empowerment, not only to grow and be better in our organizations and in our personal lives, but also to make this world a better place and give deeper meaning to our lives that goes beyond the self or professional mission.”