10 Ways We Get Smarter As We Age

1. Your hemispheres sync up.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres (each specializing in different operations). Brain scans show that while young people often use only one side for a specific task, middle-aged and older adults are more likely to activate both hemispheres at once—a pattern known as bilateralization – hence making better connections among the disparate parts of a problem or situation.

2. Your brain never stops growing.

3. Your reasoning and problem-solving skills get sharper.

A study prepared for the Brookings Institute found that middle-aged people make smarter money decisions—with the best performance notched by those in their early 50s.

4. You can focus on the upside.

Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford University asked a group of subjects ages 18 to 94 to record their emotional states at five random times a day for a week. She repeated the procedure with the same participants five years later, and then again five years after that. Participants reported more positive well-being and greater emotional stability as time went on. This may be due to changes in how the  emotion-processing center of the brain (amydgala)—responds to positive and negative events .

5. Your people skills are constantly improving.

As we get older, our social intelligence keeps expanding, we understand ourselves and others better.

6. Your priorities become clearer.

 7. You’re always adding to your knowledge and abilities.

Some kinds of information (eg vocabulary) we learn and never forget. Studies show that we keep adding new words as we age, giving us ever richer,  more subtle ways to express ourselves. Job-related knowledge also continues to accumulate, meaning we keep getting better and better at what we do.

8. You can see the big picture.

 9. You gain control of your emotions.

In a study published in 2009, psychologist Vasiliki Orgeta, PhD, evaluated younger and older adults and concluded that older adults (between ages 61 and 81) had more clarity about their feelings, made better use of strategies to regulate their emotions, and had a higher degree of control over their emotional impulses.

 10. You become an instant expert, even in new situations.

As the brain encounters new experiences, it develops schemas— these are mental frameworks that allow us to recognize and respond to similar circumstances in the future . By midlife we’ve accumulated so many schemas that help give us our bearings even in novel situations.

Antisocial teens more likely to become entrepreneurs

Researchers from the University of Stockholm recently published  a study  showing how modest antisocial behavior among adolescent boys was a positive indicator of future entrepreneurship (the  relevant characteristic was behavior rather than beliefs. When it came to antisocial attitudes that did not result in rule-breaking, the researchers found no correlation with entrepreneurship).

The study used data on an entire Swedish grade-school cohort that was tracked into its mid-40s. It controlled for socioeconomic status and IQ, although did find that the wealthier and smarter students were more likely to become entrepreneurs (for both males and females).

From the study:

These results  suggest that male entrepreneurs, when compared to male non-entrepreneurs, may go through a somewhat stronger rebellious and non-conformist phase in adolescence with regard to their behaviors; they may “drift” towards antisocial involvements in their adolescent years without becoming outlaws or developing into notorious criminals.

In many ways, the findings do make a certain sort of sense.

Entrepreneurs are, almost by definition, looking to take risky actions that somehow upset the status quo. At the same time, however, they are generally viewed as pro-social individuals (thanks to job creation, etc.). So perhaps those punishments for breaking rules as a teen are made up for as an adult, when you are admired for directing those antisocial tendencies into something more productive than cutting class.


For the full article please see…-Dan Primack Fortune

The Key Things that Happy People Never Do

Happy people do a lot of things. They spend time expressing gratitude, cultivating optimism, practicing kindness, nurturing loving relationships, committing to meaningful goals, savoring life’s little pleasures, and so on and so forth. But they NEVER…

1. Mind other people’s business. Forget about what others are doing. Stop looking at where they are and what they have. YOU are walking your own path.

2. Seek validation of self-worth from others. When you are content to simply be yourself, without comparing and competing to impress others, everyone worthwhile will respect you.  How are you letting others define you?

3. Rely on other people and external events for happiness. Unhappiness lies in that gap between what we have now and what we think we need.

4. Hold on to resentment. Stop being haunted by the ghosts from your past. What happened in the past is just one chapter in your story; don’t close the book, just turn the page and  focus on the future .

5. Spend prolonged periods of time in negative environments. You can’t make positive choices in environments inhabited by negative people and negative energy!


Youth and Unemployment 2013- BBC News

Many young unemployed people feel marginalised, pessimistic and lacking in control over their lives, claims a survey by the UCU lecturers’ union. The survey of youngsters not in education, employment or training – so-called Neets – found a third had experienced depression and more than a third “rarely left the house”.

The poll examined views of some 1,000 youngsters aged 16-24 across the UK.

The UCU’s Simon Renton said it showed the “personal impact” of unemployment.

There are about 900,000 young people classified as being Neet and the lecturers’ union survey provides an insight into how they see their circumstances.

It reveals that many feel isolated and are lacking in confidence – 40% feel they are not part of society, 36% believe they will never have a chance of getting a job.

One third have suffered depression, 37% rarely go outside the house and 39% suffer from stress.

There has been a long-term problem with youth unemployment, particularly for youngsters who have left school with poor qualifications

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Listen to Adrienne Davitt on the “Down to Business” on Newstalk

Adrienne Davitt appeared on the “Down to Business” show last Sunday hosted by Bobby Kerr.

She was asked to appear to give her expert opinion on the psychology behind unemployment and redundancy.

Click here to be brought to the “Listen Back” feature on Newstalk.ie

7 Shared Traits That Unite Women in Power

This year has seen women grab headlines across every sector in every corner of the globe. South Korea swore in its first female president (approximately 17 countries have women as head of government/state or both) and the corporate world saw many firsts in the form of Marissa Mayer.

Yet very little changed in the business world; globally only 24% of women hold positions in senior management, only 20% of senior management positions in the US are filled by women, and in Ireland this is 21% despite women accounting for more than 35% and 32% of the workforce in these countries.

Ekaterina Walter (Partner and CMO at Branderati) takes a look at some of the characteristics and traits that have united the most prominent female leaders, and helped get them to the top of their professions.

Effective role models

A recent CNN opinion piece suggests that it is the prominence of such women as Sheryl Sandberg that inspires others to be like them:

“We can create more Sandbergs by surrounding ourselves with confident, outspoken women.”

Hard work

Though successful women are often prone to credit luck for their success, it is mostly hard work and perseverance that brings women to the top of their field, says Lucy Marcus, CEO, non-exec board director, prof at IE Business School,


Arianna Huffington cites lack of confidence as “a killer to success for women. In order to advance their careers, women need to be comfortable seeing themselves as qualified leaders and risk takers.”



Madeleine Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Many of the current generation of women leaders have credited a good support network in their success, and are now active in encouraging the next generation of women in their field.


Changing the mindset of what is the “right” career for a woman begins early. Women who have a good grounding in technology, math, science, and business–and who are encouraged to take those studies further–are more likely to become the business and political leaders of the future. It isn’t just the book knowledge that counts: Women need to know they can build a career that takes them all the way to the top.


Peer group attitudes shape our perception of “normal.” Many women at the top of their professions cite strong female family members, friends, or peers as a factor in their success, and it’s something they are passing on to their own children, friends, and colleagues.

Mentoring–at all levels

Mentoring is essential to encouraging the female leaders of the future: Identifying and overcoming obstacles to their career progression at the early stages can have a huge effect on their eventual success. This should start in school and be a part of every stage of a woman’s education and training. If you can identify opportunities and encourage women early on then they will be able to fulfill their potential throughout their careers.

What is a Career Coach?

What is a Career Coach?

What is a career coach

Go to school, sit your Leaving Cert, decide on a college course, complete your studies and settle into a career: that’s the plan for everyone but it is a plan that rarely works. Some are lucky enough to know what career they want from an early age. Others figure out during their Leaving Cert that they love a particular subject or set of subjects and dedicate their studies towards that. For many people, however, they never discover their true calling. They move from school to university and into a job without ever really finding a career that they can love.

It is probably true to say that people who love their work are in the minority. These people are the lucky ones. If you can sit down to your desk at 9am (or begin treating animals at dawn, or run a restaurant at night) knowing that the next eight hours or so will be enjoyable then work is very easy, it might not even be realistic to call it work. Instead, it is the part of the day that provides mental fulfilment and satisfaction. It is essentially what MihalyCsikszentmihalyi (1992) refers to as “flow” in his excellent book of the same name. Many people spend their time lying in bed at night and in the morning dreading getting up and going into the office. However, if you can find something you are passionate about, work becomes easy, and you jump out of bed and approach the day with energy and verve. Ideally, this should be what everyone looks for from their day.

A career coach is someone who can help you find that job that makes you sit up and enjoy your day. A good career coach will usually be a qualified therapist or psychologist trained in and familiar with the way different people think, and ready to help anyone. They shouldalso have experience in career counselling. They can help you find out what it is that makes you tick, by engaging you in understanding your thoughts and concerns and looking at your passions and experience, translating that into a set of skills and understanding that is relevant to the job market and prospective employers.

A career coach generally helps you by talking to you and helping you realise what it is you enjoy doing, helping you see the value in things you appreciate. When people are good at something they tend to downplay their achievements. They think that they’re good at it because they feel the subject is easy, “Ah, sure anyone could do that!” The reality is that if you think something is easy it is because you’re good at it and enjoy it. Most people would be baffled and have no understanding of the things you can pick up in minutes and do all day long.

What is a career coach?

A career coach will talk to you about these aspects of your life, engage with you in a series of psychometric tests, present options and give you a better understanding of careers, showing you how it is possible to take what you’ve learned from one career and move successfully into another. A good career coach will help you turn your passion into something you can spend your day getting paid for doing.

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The Winner Effect: The Science of Success and How to Use It

I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast seminar with Prof Ian Robertson about his new book the winner effect. Ian is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist and Professor of the psychology dept in TCD as well as having numerous visiting Professor positions.  You can find him on twitter @ihrobertson

I was particularly excited about this talk as neuropsychology is a real passion of mine. If I wasn’t an Organisational Psychologist, I’d probably be a neuropsychologist.

Ian began the talk by presenting us with a mystery of cichlid fish, showing us a picture of two males, one, a brightly coloured, larger, more aggressive T male and the other a smaller, colourless NT male, which bears more resemblance to a female of the species. In fact, it can often be very difficult to tell the difference between an NT male and a female. Ian asked us to consider how the NT male can transform into a T male in the space of 24 hours. As an avid collector of cichlids for many years, I knew this happened. I have witnessed it with my own eyes but I did not realise it happened so quickly! Below is an example of a T male and an NT male. The difference is quite remarkable.


Ian left us to ponder the mystery of the cichlids and moved on by asking, what breeds success? The answer, of course, is success. Success increases our levels of testosterone and dopamine. The more successful we are, the more permanently our brains are altered because we produce more receiving areas for testosterone. This applies to women as well. Women produce testosterone too, just on a smaller scale than men. Failure, in turn, decreases levels of testosterone.

Success also increases our levels of dopamine, producing the same effect as cocaine. Dopamine acts as an antidepressant and decreases levels of anxiety. As a result, Ian suggested that we contrive to create small successes for our reports, our colleagues, even our children. Essentially anyone who we want to make feel better.

Home Advantage

Its long been known that “playing at home” whether in sports or business – in negotiations for example – gives us a significant psychological advantage but what is less well known is that it also gives us a significant biological advantage. Being “at home” increases our levels of both testosterone and dopamine, according to Ian, and maximises our chance of success.


Benjamin Franklin is widely regarded as a true genius. He discovered cognitive dissonance centuries before any psychologist. Although he did not call it this, he worked out the effect it could have and how he could use it to his advantage. He had an enemy in Government, a man who opposed everything Franklin was in favour of. It was known that this man had a treasured possession, a very old and rare book. Franklin toiled to find a way to get this man on side. Then, one day, he decided to ask the man if he could borrow his book. Somewhat to Franklin’s surprise the man agreed. This placed him in a state of what we know today as cognitive dissonance. Ian likened it to have an itch in your brain that you can’t scratch and it is very unsettling. The man could not change his behaviour as he had already given the book to Franklin so his only alternative was to change his attitude towards Franklin. Soon he was lending Franklin books without being asked. He eventually changed his attitude toward Franklin so much that he became one of his staunchest political allies.

According to Ian, the lessen we can all take from this is that if you intend to ask someone a big favour down the line, for example, if you want them to start buying your product or using your service instead of the people they currently use, you need to start by asking them a series of small favours. Then, when you come to ask the big favour, they are more likely to say yes.

Goal Setting

Setting goals for your staff is tricky at the best of times. If you set them too high, they will fail. If you set them too low, they will complete them with ease but will become bored and unmotivated. According to Ian, what we should aim for is the “Goldilocks” zone where goals are reachable but challenging and give people a real sense of achievement when they reach them. By doing this you have created a situation where they have been successful and, as we know, that leads to more success.

Wear Red

Red is linked to increased levels of testosterone and studies have shown that an athlete wearing red is significantly more likely to defeat an opponent who is not wearing red. A lot of this research has been carried out in the Olympics and specifically in Greco-Roman wrestling where individuals are assigned red or blue kit on a completely random basis yet the results of the fights indicate that the wrestler wearing red is statistically significantly more likely to win.

Let us relate this to something that most of us will be more familiar with. The main kits of Liverpool FC (18) and Man Utd (20) with 38 league titles between them, nearly twice as many as their closest rivals, are red.

What a lot of people will not know is that Liverpool did not always wear red as we’d assume. It was not until Bill Shankly took over as manager that he changed their kit to the famous all red that is synonymous with Liverpool today. Not long after Shankly’s colour change, Liverpool began to dominate English & European football for over 2 decades. Perhaps Shankly knew about the power of red before science proved it!

The same thing occurs in other sports too. Tiger Woods always wears a red top on the last day of a tournament and he’s the most successful golfer in history. Just last weekend, Bayern Munich won the Champions League, wearing red. Can we say that Liverpool would not have dominated football if they hadn’t started wearing red? Can we say that Tiger Woods would not be the most successful golfer in history if he didn’t wear red on the final day of tournaments? Can we say that Bayern Munich would not have won the Champions League if they were not wearing red? Of course we can’t, however, it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm!

Fake Power

According to Ian, adopting a power pose, a confident stance or taking up the whole couch when we sit down as if we own it, changes our brain chemistry. Interestingly, clenching your right fist has the same effect. So, if you don’t have any real power, fake it until you make it. Clenching your left fist should stop you from “choking” if, for example, you have to take a penalty which you must convert or your team loses.

Power, like success, makes you smarter, more decisive, more confident etc. It increases dopamine levels According to Henry Kissinger it is the most powerful aphrodisiac we have.

The Mystery of the Fish

Had you forgotten? T stands for Territory and NT stands for No Territory. So those fish with territory and probably females to protect have to be bigger, brighter and more aggressive. If a T fish dies and an NT fish happens upon the vacant territory, he will change into a T fish in a matter of 24 hours in order to guard and protect his new found success.

The Oscars

One final interesting point about success – people who win an Oscar live, on average, four years longer than people who are just nominated!

Acquiring confidence
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Confidence, does it grow with age or experience?

Acquiring confidence

Many of us recognise when we are feeling a lack of confidence; we feel helpless or awkward in a situation, feel unable to make a decision or maybe we apologise for ourselves, as we don’t feel confident about what we have said.

There are two types of confidence, the short lived kind which we can all experience and work on achieving e.g. psyching ourselves up to give a speech or perform at an interview but this can be short lived. The deeper kind of confidence comes from genuine self-belief and self-esteem, gives us a feeling of certainty about yourself and your abilities. It is more solid and self-assured, leads to greater satisfaction with our lives and it is likely that we acquired it at a very early age.

This deeper confidence is based on knowledge of ones abilities and comes from handling situations as they occur in our lives. We feel more confident doing a task if we have succeeded in doing the same in the past and perhaps learning from any mistakes. This means that both age and experience are relevant to our levels of confidence: As we grow older we have more experiences that we learn to handle and therefore become more confident. But it is also true to say that many people have to deal with more difficult experiences early on in their lives and doing this successfully can develop their confidence at a younger age.

Here are a few steps you can take to build self confidence and gain strength and courage:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different abilities and people see, feel and think about things differently. Focus on your abilities and if you catch yourself making comparisons with others, then also give a thought to those who are worse off.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who value you.
  • Always make eye contact. Smiling can also boost our sense of wellbeing in our own eyes and affect the way we appear to others.
  • Healthy eating and exercise benefits your body and mind. It is a major factor in building self esteem. Endorphins released during exercise also increase our sense of wellbeing and confidence.
  • Recognising your fears and talking about them, is the first step to conquering them. If you are faced with a task you feel you cannot cope with, share it with and friend then discuss how you can tackle it step by step. Set yourself realistic goals to accomplish.
  • You could consider contacting a professional to assist you with executive coaching services. They can help you with techniques to build your confidence levels in a professional, unassuming environment.


It is certainly true that this deeper confidence is first instilled in us during our childhood. Parental and family encouragement and support play a key role in a child developing self confidence and esteem that is their passport to a healthy life. A child learns to be confident to try new things, meet new people and operate in new environment, from encouragement and support from parents or carers. If this environment is absent in the childhood years it can often manifest itself later in life when we are adults and lack confidence in our abilities. Although, for most people, confidence does increase with age and with the experience we gain through tackling life’s challenges, it is certainly true to say that a good foundation in childhood is vital for confidence to grow in later life.

How Culture Shapes the Office- HBR

Organisational Culture differs from country to country, but how does it affect the way that offices are laid out?

Following a 5 year- 11 country study, researchers at Steelcase (office furniture company) have identified 6 dimensions of workplace culture that shape the social dynamics of an office.

Autocratic v. Consultative

A= minimal communication/ collaboration across levels of power,e.g, Russia – departments are highly segregated with distinct spaces. Employees have little access to executives

C= Employees participate in decision making/ take initiative, e.g, UK work spaces are accessible, employees at all levels participate in decision making

Individualist v. Collectivist

I = Self reliance and autonomy are highly valued, e.g., US eliminating the cubicle in favor of flexible work environments

C= Group Cohesion and Co-operation take priority, e.g., In China employees are comfortable with densely arranged workstations

Masculine v. Feminine

M: Achievement, competition, dominate culture, e.g., In Italy most firms have assertive, competitive corporate cultures. Visible symbols of hierarchy such as private offices are important.  

F: Co-operation and harmony are highly valued, e.g., Dutch organisations generally feature more fluid spaces, encourage equality, and reflect a focus on well being

Tolerant of Uncertainty v. Security Orientated

T: Challenges are tackled as they come, e.g., the British are at ease with unstructured, unpredictable situations, and prefer workstations that promote sharing, mobility and creative thinking

S: detailed processes and structure, e.g., in Spain workers tend to be careful about sharing information and make big decisions only after deliberation. The design of spaces reflect this

Short term v. Long term

S: Focus is on fast return, and minimizing investments, e.g., In US being fast, flexible and innovative is important, spaces should allow for quick toggling between individual and group work

L: Emphasis is on investment and company longevity, e.g., In China spaces embody company history, values, adn rituals. Executive offices are important symbols of tradition, order, and long term stability

Low Context v. High Context

L: direct and explicit approach is key to co-operations between individuals, e.g., In Germany communication is expected to be honest and straightforward. How a message is delivered is less important.  Offices should be outfitted with white boards and other information sharing equipment

H: indirect communication, unspoken signals are essential in building understanding. e.g., China, tools such as video conferencing are used, as they allow participants in virtual meetings to see visual cues such as where people are seated and their body  language to build deeper understanding


So…..designing work spaces to suit the local culture fosters trust and productivity – hence building competitive advantage.