I have watched numerous Ted Talks on how to improve performance at work and at home, and how to harness happiness to balance the strenuous demands of both without going cuckoo. But few have moved or motivated me quite like Shawn Achor‘s video on what he calls “The Happiness Advantage.” He’s hilarious, slightly self-deprecating and completely relatable. In the video, which I’ve included in this post, he talks about how in order to be happy with your oftentimes imperfect job/life situation, you have to look at things through a different lens. You have to view obstacles and challenges as amazing opportunities to grow; you have to think outside of your comfort zone to utilize your skill set in unique ways; you have to believe in yourself and realize your full potential, rather than just trudge on blinded by your “I cant’s.” We can accomplish so many great things if we only focus our energies and acknowledge our potential. It’s all information we already know, but the way Achor presents it is unique and empowering. So when I discovered he wrote a book as well, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
Citing numerous studies and real-life situations, Achor’s book is a must-read. One of my favorite sections of the book discusses The Tetris Effect, which is based on a Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry study. In the study, 27 people were paid to play Tetris for multiple hours a day, three days in a row. For days after the study, some participants couldn’t stop dreaming about shapes falling from the sky. Many couldn’t stop seeing their world as being made of of sequences of Tetris blocks. Some even found themselves strategically rearranging real-life items – like cereal boxes in the grocery store – in their heads as if they were still playing Tetris.
The point here is that when we get into the habit of looking for errors or seeing things in a negative light, we often extend that behavior to all aspects of our lives. The maxim “old habits die hard,” is for real. Achor suggests ways to reset our negative thought patterns to create a more positive Tetris effect at work and at home.
He suggests kick starting that reset by writing down a list of “three good things” that have happened every single day. It’s a challenge, but I’ve found that by focusing on the positive, my negatives don’t seem as significant. By constantly forcing yourself to scan for the positive in the day, rather than dwell on the negative, you adjust the lens through which you view the world. But the only way to fully reap the benefits of the exercise is to practice, practice, practice. I’m still struggling with the every single day part, but I’m getting better all the time.
I hope the video below inspires you as much as it has me.