Recently Baker of Man Vs. Debt shared a link to a video of a fantastic TED Talk presented by Shawn Achor that had inspired him. I agree with Baker as this brief video is one of the best TED presentations I’ve seen yet.
Shawn is smart; insightful . . . and damn funny—and he has a powerful message that is not only inspiring but is also simple, practical and essential.
Shawn Achor: A Man with a Message Worth Watching
In his presentation Shawn illustrates how as a culture we’ve “pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon,” in a way that makes it virtually unachievable and in the process not only are we not being happy but we’re actually shooting ourselves in the foot by making ourselves less innovative, creative, productive and effective in our lives, work and school while we’re at it.
Go ahead and watch this great video below (recommended), and I’m also including what I feel are some of the highlights below. Warning: Video starts out with some louder synth music!
Some Key Highlights from this Video (Direct quotes from Shawn’s presentation)
What Shapes Our Reality?
“It is not necessarily the reality that shapes us; but the lens in which your brain views the world shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change our happiness, but we can change every single business and educational outcome at the same time”
Understanding the Science of Happiness: What on Earth does a Harvard Student possibly have to be Unhappy About?
“Shawn why are you wasting your time studying happiness at Harvard? Seriously what does a Harvard student possibly have to be unhappy about?
Embedded in that question is the key to understanding the Science of Happiness, because what that question assumes is that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels. When in reality-if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict about 10% of your long-term happiness. Ninety percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by your external world but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it; if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality.”
“. . . What I’ve found is most companies and schools follow a formula for success which is this: If I work harder I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful then I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting styles, our management styles; the way that we motivate our behavior and the problem is . . . it’s scientifically broken and backwards . . .
. . . every time our brain has a success [we] just change the goal-posts to what success looks like. Got good grades; now you have to get better grades. Gone to a good school; now you have to go to a better school. You’ve got a good job; now you have to get a better job. You hit your sales target; now we’re going to change your sales target.
And if happiness is on the opposite side of success your brain never gets there.
What we’ve done is pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful and then we’ll be happier.
The Problem is we have the Formula Backwards
But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise the level of somebody’s 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 raises, your energy levels rise; in fact we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves.
Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed . . .
Which means we can reverse the formula; if we can find a way of becoming positive in the present then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.
What we need to do is reverse this formula so that we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of 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 the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.”
Shawn’s Closing Comments and 5-Step Process to the Happiness Advantage
Shawn goes on to explain how with every company he has worked with (in over 45 different countries) they’ve tested this process of training or “rewiring” your brain to be more positive in just a couple of minutes per day for 21 days and have had significant, measurable results in productivity.
Here is the 5 Step Process he outlines—
Small Changes Ripple Outward
Creating lasting positive change:
- 3 Gratitudes: Write down 3 new things you’re grateful for 21 days in a row. Eventually your brain starts to maintain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative but for the positive.
- Journaling: About one positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours helps you to relive it.
- Exercise: Teaches your brain that your behaviors matter.
- Meditation” Allows us to undo the cultural ADHD we’ve created by trying to do multiple tasks at once. It helps our brains to learn to focus on the task at hand.
- Random Acts of Kindness: When you open up your inbox write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social network.
You Say You Want a Revolution (Well you know . . . we all wanna change the world)
Shawn’s final comment was “that if we could reverse the currently used formula for success [the one that pushes happiness always out beyond our grasp], not only will we create ripples of positivity . . . but a real revolution.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely a revolution I could get behind. No need to pick up a pitch-fork or a bazooka; we can transform the world by spreading this message. So make sure you share this issue with friends, family and anyone you feel would connect with and
benefit from this.