This is a summary of a tedtalk.
Listen to the talk: www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work
When I was seven and my sister Amy was five, we were playing on our bunk beds, she fell off and I in an attempt to stop her crying so I wouldn’t get into trouble said to her, “Amy, Amy, wait. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you’re a unicorn.” At this moment, my poor manipulated sister faced conflict, as her little brain attempted to process the pain and shock she just experienced while contemplating her new found identity as a unicorn. The latter won and she smiled and climbed back onto the bed again despite having a broken leg.
What we stumbled upon here was to be something of a scientific revolution two decades later, something called positive thinking in psychology.
In statistics for example we often are trying to find ways to eliminate the outliers in order to find the line of best fit. However, what I want to do is study that outlier if it is above the curve in order to glean information about them, so people don’t just remain average, but better than that. If we study what is merely average we will remain average. I want to move up the average in our schools and companies worldwide.
Negative influences, such as cases of violence and suffering on the news, shape our perceptions of reality as we begin to think this is how the world really is when in fact this is not true. It’s not reality that shapes us, it’s the lens we view reality with that shapes us. If we change the lens, not only can we shape happiness but the outcomes of schools and businesses at the same time.
I discovered when I was an officer of Harvard to counsel students through the difficult four years. And what I found in my research and my teaching is that these students, no matter how happy they were with their original success of getting into the school, two weeks later their brains were focused, not on the privilege of being there, nor on their philosophy or their physics. Their brain was focused on the competition, the workload, the hassles, the stresses, the complaints.
The formula for success in most schools and companies is that if you work harder, you’ll be more successful. This is scientifically broken and backwards. Firstly because every time you achieve success, you change the goalpost of what success is. For example, you get good grades, you want better grades. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society.
But if you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. This is because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.
There are several ways you can train your brain to become more positive. For example, writing down three different things you’re grateful for every single day, journalling a positive experience, or random acts of kindness. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.
By doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we’ve found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but create a real revolution.
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This talk has been summarized by Robyn Darbyshire