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JLI course: How Success Thinks

15 January - 19 February 2020

6 Wednesday evenings


Location: Zoom

Price: £50 / £30 Supporters Club members

While definitions of success vary by society and culture, and from individual to individual, most people are driven to succeed: to perform well and accomplish their personal and professional goals.

Countless books, subject matter experts, seminars, and workshops promise to reveal the secret to success. The recent development of the Positive Psychology movement responds to the need for the empirical, scientific study of how to cultivate a satisfactory and fulfilling life, rather than focusing solely on mental illness.

How Success Thinks, a new six-week course from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, draws on the findings of Positive Psychology and other social science research, as well as classic Jewish thought, to offer personal insights and strategies for success.

Lesson One: Defining Success What is success? Merriam-Webster dictionary's first definition describes success as achieving wealth, respect, or fame; the dictionary's second articulates it is the desired or correct outcome of an attempt. Talking about success can be problematic when the word itself connotes dual, and potentially conflicting, meanings.

In this Lesson we ask, what do we mean when we talk about success? To what extent are personal goals shaped by external factors and pressures? How can we develop definitions of success that reflect our core desires, values, and principles? How do competing motivations, for factors including status and wealth, and also for achieving the goal itself, impact our performance?

This Lesson draws on research literature on Internal Motivation (often called "intrinsic motives") and Success as well as the Jewish mystical practice of hishtatvut equanimity, a state in which one is not dependent on external influence or validation but in which one lives from within.

Lesson Two: Mindset The path to success is usually fraught with challenges and obstacles. How should we address persistent doubts that certain goals might be beyond one's capabilities, or that success is even possible? What does science say about our ability to substantially change and grow?

This Lesson explores underlying mindsets and self-beliefs that are foundational to success. The Lesson reviews the research and theories of Martin Seligman (Learned Helplessness), Albert Bandura (Self-Efficacy), and Carol Dweck (Entity vs. Incremental Mindsets) on how thought pattern can impact success, and explores some Jewish theological premises regarding thought processes.

Lesson Three: Signature Strengths Perfect people don't exist, and most individuals tend to excel in certain areas over others. Martin Seligman, and Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton argue that while it is important to develop and strengthen character weaknesses, to maximize the chances of success, goals should be approached from individual signature strengths.

This lesson explores these theories and also integrates the Jewish mystical tradition of sefirot to analyze the basic traits and patterns that form an individual's character and personality.

Lesson Four: Creativity Vaccination. The assembly line. The theory of relativity. The electric light bulb. The wheel. What does every major discovery that has propelled human progress through history have in common? In most success stories, the idea or product was an "innovation" a radical departure from how things were done, or how things were thought about, until then. It was something that required "creativity" coming up with something new and unpredictable.

What is creativity? Is creativity a special gift, an inborn trait, or an acquired habit? Is there a formula that can generate creativity?

The lesson will draw on Dr. Robert Sternberg's definition of Creative Intelligence (one of a trio of intelligences in his Triarchic Theory of Intelligence) as a person's ability to go beyond given information, to imagine new and exciting ways of reformulating old problems.

Lesson 5: Interpersonal The achievement of personal goals involves other people; how can one's interpersonal skills impact individual success? Do social-emotional skills matter for non-social tasks and projects? Studies of data from the Fast Track Project indicate that there is a relationship between social competence and wellness.

The lesson explores interventions that can improve social and emotional skills, as well as classic Jewish works on character refinement.

Week Six: Failure to Execute There is often a gap between establishing goals and resolutions, and then executing them. What are the obstacles to being able to follow through and persist?

The lesson explores the phenomenon on procrastination, and suggests several solutions, including Angela Duckworth's theory of Grit to provide insight for individual persistence. The lesson also integrates the Jewish concept of seder histalshelut?a model from Jewish mystical teachings that informs the creative process as a framework for the discussion.

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