Shawn Achor is the CEO of Good Think Inc., where he researches and teaches about positive psychology.
As a child, while playing a game with his little sister she fell from a bunk bed and landed on all fours. Shawn made her better by telling her she looked just like a unicorn – instead of crying she immediately got back on the bunk bed happy.
When studying people, we tend to look for excuses to discard ‘outliers’, and focus only on the average to find a line of best fit. This is the cult of the average – we look only at the baseline. Instead we should look more at the positive outliers: what makes them different? If we study outliers, we can move the ‘average’ upwards.
Shawn is an advocate of ‘positive psychology’: studying the positive side rather than focussing on the negative. For example studying happy people on why they are happy, rather than on how to make depressed people happier. “The absence of disease is not health”: you can’t talk about wellness by only focussing on alcoholism, risky sex, bullying.
Looking at someone’s surroundings only explains 10% of their happiness levels. 90% is based on how your brain sees the world around it. Only 25% of job performance is based on intelligence, with 75% based on support networks, positivity, and ability to perceive stress as a challenge.
Currently most people believe that if they are successful they will become happy. This is flawed because:
- When you achieve success, you immediately shift the goal posts further. If you get good grades, you need to get better grades next time. So you will never achieve success and always push it over the horizon into the future.
- Happiness makes someone more successful. “The Happiness Advantage” means you are better at getting a job, 31% more productive, more resilient.
In 21 days you can rewire your brain to see things more positively. Shawn suggests writing down 3 things you are grateful for, perform random acts of kindness, meditate to clear your mind.
Shawn speaks well, with plenty of clever stories. However this is a talk that makes me a little wary: it often sounded a lot like a sales pitch rather than purely informative. There’s a few numbers mixed in, but they are vague percentages without a clear source. Some of the ideas are well established: Happiness does make people more successful and people never really see themselves as ‘successful’. However the rest feels like an eclectic mix of ideas to help sell his books or consulting.
It is worth watching, I’m curious if others got the same vibe I did…