Changing the happiness equation ~ TED talk by Shawn Achor

Very funny AND paradigm shifting TED talk by positive psychologist Shawn Achor.

Notes on happiness

Our external world does not predict our happiness levels.

Happiness is determined by what way your brain processes the external world.

  1. Optimism level
  2. Social support
  3. Ability to see stress as a challenge, instead of as a threat

Absence of disease is not health.

Typical Formula for Success:

If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. If I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.

But if happiness is on the other side of success, and we keep changing the targets of success, so we are never happy (for long).

But if you turn that around and start positive and “raise you positivity in the present,” you will get a “happiness advantage.” As study after study supports, beginning any task (writing, speaking, teaching, selling, etc.) from a place of happiness will yield measurably better performance.

When we find a way to become positive in the present, then your brains work significantly better.

How do we train our brains to be more positive?

Train your brain to be more positive by doing these five things for 21 days in a row:

  • Three gratitudes
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random acts of kindness

Train your brain to “scan for the positive” by writing down three things every day that you’re thankful for.

Journaling about your experience over last 24 yours helps your brain relive it, reframe it.

“Exercise teaching your brain that your behavior matters.”

Meditation helps you get over the cultural ADHD we live with and “focus on the task at hand.”

Random acts: Praise or thank one person, send an email or does something else that focuses on the positive impact of another.

Do that an you will reverse the formula for success where happiness is the beginning and not the end (that is never achieved).

Notes on outliers

Achor started his talk on the value of outliers in research data, but I began my notes on the meat of his remarks on the happiness formula.

When we ignore outliers and focus on the average, our science of psychology becomes a cult of the average. But if you think outliers the way as Nassim Taleb thinks about black swans, we’ll realize that the impact of those outliers can outweigh the impact of all the averages put together, just like the outlier of Bill Gates’ wealth outweighs the wealth of a million average Americans put together.

The point is: if I go along with all the other researchers and ignore, discount, or totally remove the outliers from my data, I enable and perpetuate cult of the average.

But when I study the outliers to find out what makes them above average, I may learn something that may ultimately help the entire population and finally break through the seemingly impenetrable ceiling of the average.

It is only by studying those that lie outside the average, the outliers, that I can to improve the lives of “average.”

Get in! No time to explain!