Listening to Shawn Achor at the Entrepreneur Organization was a delight. I had read his book – The Happiness Advantage years ago, when I began my journey to discover ‘this human condition’ of happiness. I’d watched his TED talk which has had more than 2million views (below)– and for want of a better word I would consider myself a fan.
(Okay maybe I embarrassed myself a little when I approached him for a photo and I proceeded to be a little star struck and ‘gushy’ as we spoke. He was very kind and gallant, laughed with me and was interest in what we are up to with Five Thanks a Day – he even offered his assistance, all of which only reinforced my ‘star-struckness’.)
Shawn attended Harvard as an undergraduate and has continued his academic life there “because it is one of the most privileged places in the world”. He was a big contributor to the recent Harvard Business Review feature on the ‘Science of Happiness’. “The students here are the best of the best. Yet of course only 1% of them can be in the top 1% which leaves the other 99% in the bottom 99%” he said. Apparently 10% of this very elite group contemplates suicide in their first year at Harvard. These are people who have everything to live for – yet depression is in plague proportions at this ivy league school.
To ‘have it all, including being highly intelligent’ does not guarantee happiness.
Shawn implored the audience to consider that researching average was not going to give us the insights to create long-term sustainable happiness. There are physiological contributors to happiness too ie we have mirror neurons, which match other human emotions causing an increase in dopamine, (a chemical released in the brain) that is yawning, negativity, stress, and uncertainty are all contagious – as are smiling, and happiness. The trick is to buffer our brains from the effect of negativity.
He noted that school grades, IQ, and financial security are not long term determinants of success.
The three greatest predictors of success are:
- Optimism the belief that your behavior matters. (What you do is worthwhile.)
- That you have a strong social connection
- Perceive stress as a challenge and opportunity
Your daily thoughts will determine your personal happiness (and impact those around you.)
The absence on negativity is not happiness – nor is ‘blind’ positivity. The lens that we view the world and our ability to buffer ourselves from negativity will greatly impact our ability for long term happiness.
I noted that I gave up watching TV news programs years ago… and reducing the negativity that surrounded me has had a scientifically proven impact on my ability to be positive. Given our ‘fight or flight’ subconscious – we are far more likely to be attracted to negativity – because our brains are assessing it to determine if we need to ‘do’ something to protect ourselves from it.
What negative influences can you remove from your life? – And in so doing assist you view the world through a positive lens.