The happy secret to better work | Shawn Achor | Summary and Q&A

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February 1, 2012
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TED
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The happy secret to better work | Shawn Achor

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Summary

This video discusses the concept of positive psychology and its impact on happiness and success. The speaker shares personal anecdotes and research findings to show that our brain's perception of the world shapes our reality and happiness levels. He argues against the traditional formula of working hard to become successful and then happy, proposing instead that by fostering positivity in the present, our brains perform better and we can achieve greater success. He shares various techniques, such as gratitude exercises, journaling, exercise, meditation, and acts of kindness, that can help rewire our brains and create a positive revolution in our lives.

Questions & Answers

Q: What happened when the speaker's sister fell off the bunk bed?

The speaker's sister landed on all fours on the ground and was in pain. The speaker, trying to avert her crying and waking their parents, told her that she must be a unicorn because no human lands on all fours like that. This created a conflict in her brain as she had to choose between feeling the pain or embracing her new identity as a unicorn. She ultimately chose to be a unicorn and continued playing with a smile on her face.

Q: What did the speaker and his sister stumble across at a young age?

At the age of five and seven, the speaker and his sister stumbled across something called positive psychology, which they were not aware of at the time. Positive psychology is a scientific approach that focuses on studying happiness, well-being, and human potential. It revolutionizes the way we look at the human brain and its capacity for happiness and success.

Q: How does the speaker explain the graph he presents?

The speaker presents a graph that shows a curve representing the average level of happiness in a population, with one red dot representing an outlier. He explains that while scientists typically eliminate outliers or weirdos in their research, he deliberately chooses to study them. Instead of focusing on moving people up to the average level of happiness, he wants to understand why some individuals are high above the curve and study how to move the entire average up.

Q: How does the speaker suggest changing the lens through which we view the world?

The speaker suggests changing our lens by focusing on positivity and happiness rather than negativity. He explains that our brain's perception of the world shapes our reality, and if we can increase our positivity levels, we can change the way we perceive and interact with the world. By intentionally seeking out positive experiences, practicing gratitude, exercising, meditating, and engaging in acts of kindness, we can rewire our brains to become more positive and ultimately affect our happiness and success.

Q: What does the speaker say about the relationship between success and happiness?

The speaker argues that the traditional belief that we need to be successful in order to be happy is scientifically broken and backwards. He explains that every time we achieve success, our brain changes the goalpost of what success looks like, making it an elusive and never-ending pursuit. Instead, he proposes that by raising our level of positivity in the present, our brains experience a happiness advantage, leading to better performance and success. Happiness, according to him, should precede success, not the other way around.

Q: What percentage of job successes are predicted by IQ, according to the speaker?

The speaker states that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, while 75% of job successes are predicted by factors like optimism levels, social support, and the ability to see stress as a challenge rather than a threat. This suggests that our mindset and emotional well-being have a significant impact on our professional success.

Q: How can we train our brain to become more positive?

The speaker suggests several techniques to train our brain to become more positive. These include practicing gratitude by writing down three new things we're grateful for each day, journaling about a positive experience, engaging in regular exercise, practicing meditation to focus and calm the mind, and performing random acts of conscious kindness, such as sending a positive email of praise or thanks to someone in our support network. By consistently practicing these activities, our brain can be rewired to become more positive.

Q: What does the speaker say about the absence of disease and true health?

The speaker contends that the absence of disease does not equate to true health. He argues that health goes beyond the mere absence of negative conditions and emphasizes the importance of fostering positivity, happiness, and well-being. Reversing the formula of success and happiness allows us to focus on creating a state of true health, where our brain's positive outlook enhances our performance, relationships, and overall experience of life.

Q: What has the speaker observed about the media's portrayal of negativity?

The speaker notes that the majority of news and media content is focused on negative events such as murder, corruption, diseases, and natural disasters. He suggests that this constant exposure to negativity can skew our perception of the world, creating what he calls "the medical school syndrome." This syndrome refers to the tendency to believe that the negative events presented in the media accurately reflect the ratio of negative to positive in the world, leading to increased anxiety and pessimism.

Q: What possibilities does the speaker believe exist for changing reality through positivity?

The speaker argues that by changing our brain's lens and fostering positivity, we can change our reality and affect every aspect of our lives, including education and business outcomes. He believes that if we focus on what our brains are capable of in a positive state, we can achieve greater happiness, success, creativity, energy levels, productivity, and overall well-being. By experiencing a happiness advantage, our brains perform at a significantly higher level, leading to positive ripple effects in all areas of our lives.

Takeaways

The speaker's talk emphasizes the power of positivity and how it can revolutionize our lives. He challenges the traditional formula of working hard to achieve success and then happiness, proposing instead that happiness should precede success. By changing our brain's lens and practicing activities to foster positivity, such as gratitude exercises, journaling, exercise, meditation, and acts of kindness, we can rewire our brains to become more positive. This change in mindset not only enhances our happiness levels but also improves our performance, relationships, and overall well-being. The speaker encourages individuals, companies, and schools to focus on positive psychology and create a ripple effect of positivity in the world.

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