Smarter Ways to Look Ahead: Research-Based Suggestions for a Better 2023
We asked faculty from the Yale School of Management to put a scholarly lens on improving our personal and professional lives in the coming year.
Get More Art into Your Life
Heidi Brooks, Senior Lecturer in Organizational Behavior
Early on in my life as a professor, I realized that my practicum courses—like Interpersonal Dynamics and Everyday Leadership—demanded a different measure of interaction and reflection compared to other MBA courses. I began to open class with a poem to make space for students to arrive, to be able to see the world from a different perspective, and to be able to connect with the broader tradition of liberal arts education on this amazing Yale campus. Poetry in class led to music and improvisational theater adventures in the classroom—all in the spirit of creating transformational learning.
I hope you are able to bring more art into your life. Art can help you look at things from a different perspective—and we all need that, especially after the last few years. It’s a pleasant way to enjoy life and make sense of what you are thinking and feeling. And my favorite reason for everything: you will likely learn something in the process.
Here are some of my recent personal art adventures to inspire your own:
- Edward Hopper’s New York (at the Whitney Museum of American Art through March 5)
- Monet-Mitchell (at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris through February 27)
- Romare Bearden at the Yale University Art Gallery
- A recent production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods on Broadway
- The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
- Standup comedy when I can convince someone to come along. (Here are good places to start for comedy shows in New York, Boston, and around New Haven.)
- Street art in subways and parks
- Improvisational theater—I’m an eternal beginning student in this fun art. (Sea Tea Improv in Hartford hosts both shows and classes.)
- Poetry. I love to choose a piece and read it regularly, even daily, over time to let it work on me. Here is one that is working on me now, by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska: “The End and the Beginning.”
Create a Financial Plan
James Choi, Professor of Finance
How much do you think you’ll save this year? How about the following year? How about the year after that?
I advise everybody to create a simple spreadsheet that contains forecasts of how much you’ll save each year from now until retirement. Assume your investments will grow at some conservative rate, like 2% per year after inflation, and calculate how much money you’ll end up with at retirement. Are you happy with that number?
Of course, life will not conform exactly to your plan. But this exercise will let you see whether you end up somewhere reasonable if everything does go according to plan. If not, that signals that you need to make a better plan!
Look beyond the Boundaries of Your Organization
Teresa Chahine, Sheila and Ron ’92 B.A. Marcelo Senior Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship
My students and I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of “extrapreneurship” in creating social change. This is not a term that’s officially used in the academic literature—it’s just a term we started using in the classroom to talk about entrepreneuring beyond the boundaries of any one institution.
While entrepreneurship refers to starting a new organization, and intrapreneurship refers to starting a new endeavor within an existing organization, extrapreneurship points to the importance of innovating across multiple organizations to create transformational and long-lasting change.
Examples we’ve used in classroom discussions include nonprofits that provide resources for existing stakeholders to connect more effectively across agencies, like Health Leads and The Health Initiative; public-private partnerships catalyzing knowledge exchange across sectors like Project Last Mile; and collective impact initiatives like the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse project of the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness and other collective impact initiatives. One of my favorite examples of extrapraneurship is Catalyst 2030, which functions as a distributed entity rather than an independent organization.
So, if you are looking to create change in 2023, you don’t have to start something new. It’s more likely that you’ll be able to make an even bigger difference if you connect with others across different organizations and sectors.
Take Photos to Connect with What’s around You
Gal Zauberman, Joseph F. Cullman, 3rd Professor of Marketing
Technology has improved our lives in countless ways, but also infused new challenges. In particular, it drains and shifts our attention, limiting deep engagement. Rather than lecture about the importance of putting your cellphone away while having a holiday dinner or studying for an exam (which you should), I will describe how the act of taking a photo can be a mindful use of technology that can actually improve your experiences.
Thanks to modern smartphones, cameras are now at our fingertips. But as photo-taking has become ubiquitous, so is the belief that photo-taking detracts from an experience. It’s a belief that I held for years, too—until I did the research. Through dozens of experiments over the last decade, in the field and the lab, in different contexts, and different measurement approaches, my coauthors and I found that photo-taking can in fact improve your experiences by getting you more engaged with your surroundings.
This kind of documentation not only boosts enjoyment, but further improves your memory for the visual aspects of a given experience—though not for non-visual aspects, like a tour guide’s explanation. (In fact, taking photos decreases your memory for what you just heard!) So the next time you’re on a hike or at a museum, take out your phone or camera and snap the photos you’ll want to remember. And since taking photos intended for social media can make you self-conscious and more likely to seek out “iconic” images, keep the sharing for when you’re back home. (You can read more about our research in this interview.)
Embrace Humility in Science and Medicine
Howard Forman, Professor in the Practice of Management
The scientific method is explicitly based on revising beliefs based on rigorous data collection and/or experimentation, well-conceived analysis, and thoughtful evaluation. It is a continuously iterative process. We should have confidence in our methods, confidence in our analysis, but humility in our interpretation. Too often, we find that “facts” were wrong: we foster an environment of unnecessary harm and risk when we move away from the probabilistic nature of science toward certainty, when the conclusions of analysis are far from certain.
Use Breathing Techniques to Manage Negative Emotions
Emma Seppälä, Lecturer in Management and author of The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success
No matter how much education and training we have, most of us have never received formal training in how to handle our emotions—you know, the big, bad negative ones. The technique most people use: suppression. Think about how that’s working out for you. Research shows that, at the brain level, it actually makes the emotion stronger! It’s like taking a soda can and shaking it up. What’s more, research shows it impacts our relationships negatively: other people register that you’re not being authentic and feel less connected to you.
What can we do instead? Our research and that of our colleagues shows that one of the fastest and most efficient ways to calm strong negative emotions is through breathing. When placed side by side with other well-being interventions and traditional therapeutic approaches, breathing practices not only hold up well, but show superior results. If you’re not one to enjoy talk therapy but you do want results, try learning a breathing practice you can do daily. (The one we researched is called SKY Breath Meditation; I wrote about it recently for Time magazine.)
The reason breathing may be so effective is that it doesn’t just involve changing your thoughts; it also calms your nervous system on a physiological level. When you breathe in, your heart rate increases; when you breathe out, it slows down. A simple exercise you can do is to close your eyes and extend your exhales for a few moments longer than you otherwise would, and watch how your mind settles down as a result.