If you’ll recall, we’ve been looking at how choosing happiness sets the stage for your success. This is contrary to traditional thinking, where for many years, we have believed that once we accomplish our goals, THEN we will be happy. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, outlines the science behind the relatively new field of positive psychology. He also claims that through many research studies, we often sacrifice happiness in order to pursue success. This is completely the opposite of what we should do!
In Achor’s book, he identified seven “specific, actionable, and proven patterns that predict success and achievement.” Since sharing this information with Harvard and the world, these principles have helped tens of thousands of people retrain their brains, change habits, and become more productive and successful. Below are three of the seven.
The Happiness Advantage – Being happy just before tackling a project or a problem by taking a brief moment to gain a quick boost of positive emotion will increase dopamine and serotonin in our brains, even increase our vision, literally making us able to see the world better. Studies show that even receiving – not even eating – receiving a piece of candy can elicit happiness! It can truly be the small things at times. We’re all different in what triggers those happy emotions. If you’re like me, talking with a loved one, clearing the sink of dirty dishes, drinking a yummy cup of coffee, or doing a few pull-ups makes me happy. Specific things Achor lists that we can do: meditate, find something to look forward to, commit conscious acts of kindness, infuse positivity into your surroundings, exercise, spend money (but not on stuff), and exercise a signature strength (think character, not just skill). Remember, before making that call or sitting down to work on that presentation, get happy, first. You’ll be much more successful.
The Fulcrum and the Lever – This is all about your perspective. With the right mindset (fulcrum), you take the power (lever) to affect your actions as well as your reality. Basically, there’s truth to the Placebo Effect – which is that simply believing that you’ve taken a drug causes the symptom to disappear more than half of the time. Additionally, there is science behind what sounds like advice from your mom, “You can do ANYthing you set your mind to!” Our belief in our own abilities is a better predictor of job performance than the actual level of skill or training. Not only can you alter your future, you can influence the performance of others by expressing your faith in their ability. In case you haven’t heard me say this before, “I believe in you.”
The Tetris Effect – Named after a study where people were paid to play Tetris for several hours for 3 days, this principle claims that what you “train” your brain to see, it will look for those things. One test subject reported that he could see in his mind nothing but Tetris brick gaps in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, and how he could flip cereal boxes to fill those gaps following the test. Put in simple terms, our brains process patterns very efficiently, and if you focus on the negative over and over, it becomes a habit that is extremely difficult to break. One exercise proven to create a Positive Tetris Effect is to write down three good things that happened to you that day, for at least a week. This leads to an increased positive outlook on your environment, gratitude, and lasting happiness, even after the exercise is stopped.
Next week, we’ll finish looking at the last four of the seven principles. In the meantime, #choosehappiness!
As an aside: For those of you who enjoyed the Super Bowl commercials last night, I hope you spotted the positive psychology messages behind Coca Cola’s #MakeItHappy and McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin” campaigns?