Not only do we as individuals get locked into single-minded views, but we also reinforce these views for each other until the culture itself suffers the same mindlessness. ~ Ellen Langer, PhD
I am a big fan of Ellen Langer. I call her the “Priestess of Possibility.” Since I call myself an “Agent of Possibility” that is close to being God in my book. I revere her because she lives by never accepting “No” for an answer. When she hears, “No,” she asks, “Why not?”
Changing Mindsets Results in New Possibilities
I have bought multiple copies of her books and have given them to the people I care about. I have been using her original research, which she wrote about in her book Mindlfulness, in training managers and in my classes with students who were in the organizational management program at Antioch University Santa Barbara. Now my students who are studying for their Masters in Social Work at the USC School of Social Work Virtual Academic Center have found the research in Counterclockwise to be a mind-opener. Hardly a coaching session goes by with an executive or someone looking to make changes in their life, that I don’t share something from Ellen Langer’s work that helps them to see new possibilities.
What is so compelling about Ellen Langer’s work? By helping us understand how and why we need to challenge our mindsets, those taken-for-granted assumptions that color our experience of the world, she opens a world of new possibilities.
Her research is stunning. For example, in Counterclockwise, she explains how, by creating an elaborate context for crotchety 80 year old men to feel 20 years younger, they actually become younger as a result. One week after the men got off their Langer Retreat bus with canes and walkers they left not only feeling, looking, and acting younger—even playing touch football– but their eye sight improved!
Ellen Langer sends her own students off with a prescription for life that she calls GLADO. It is simple and worth considering. She has the research to back it up. Reprinted from her blog with her permission is Ellen Langer’s GLADO.
GLADO by Ellen Langer, PhD
For the past ten years I’ve ended my courses with one version or another of a powerpoint presentation of photos of my paintings with the most course appropriate one-liners as a way to help celebrate the end of the semester and to provide an easy way to remember some of the course highlights. The one-liners were culled from years of research. They include such sayings as “Predict Today and Lose Tomorrow” to remind them of the illusion of predictability and how our predictions lead to expectations that give us tunnel vision and may prevent noticing the unpredicted, for example.
There is also a message hidden in many of the sayings that I bring to light to underscore what I feel as a personal responsibility to convey to them and feel comfortable doing so since it is a send-off celebration. The message is my recipe for a happy successful life. It is not based directly on research nor theory. Still it feels right to me.
The recipe is the acronym, GLADO. The prescription is be Generous, Loving, Authentic, Direct, and Open and well being should result. It implicitly follows from years of research on Mindfulness. The mindful understanding that behavior makes sense from the actor’s perspective or else s/he wouldn’t have done it, leads us to be less evaluative of others and ourselves. As such, it removes the impediments to generosity, caring, authenticity, being direct and not fearing being open and true to ourselves.
If we practice this way of being, will all failure and rejection or open personal attack be a thing of the past? Probably not. It would be nice not to have to endure the trials and tribulations we suffer from time to time. But after all, many people out there are not embracing whatever wisdom this simple acronym holds. If we stay the course, we very well may avert some unpleasant episodes and certainly recover more quickly from others.
GLADO is easy to remember, and years later many students tell me that they call it to mind when they are feeling insecure or angry. To some this will seem like pabulum. I think they don’t realize that it’s hard to be soft. To them I say, “ try it and see.”
Ellen Langer, Yale PhD, Harvard Professor of Psychology, artist. Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Distinguished Scientist Awards, the World Congress Award, the NYU Alumni Achievement Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology, and has authored eleven books and over 200 research articles on the illusion of control, perceived control, successful aging, decision-making, to name a few of the topics. Each of these is examined through the lens of her theory of mindfulness. Her research has demonstrated that by actively noticing new things—the essence of mindfulness—health, well being, and competence follow. Her bestselling books include Mindfulness; The Power of Mindful Learning; On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity; and her most recent book, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Read more of Ellen Langer’s work and see her art at www.ellenlanger.com.
Want to learn more about Ellen Langer on the web?
Watch her explain mindfulness in this short Seeing the Roses video
Listen to the NPR Interview about how her research with Chamber Maids Challenges the Placebo Effect
If you would like a complimentary session to discuss how coaching might help you to shift to possibility mode you can schedule a session at the website of Dr. Lynn K. Jones.
P.S. Thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to add their comments to the discussion or wishes to forward the blog link. I’m GLADO!!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Your Mojo Maven
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment.