Unicorns, Hogwarts, and the Happiness Advantage at Work

Positivity has tremendous power. Set aside 12 minutes to watch this great TED talk by Shawn Achor on wellness, happiness, and productivity (and yes, unicorns):

Shawn’s message
Prepping for my first wellness blog, I needed to come to terms with my blogging style. As a psychology undergrad, Shawn’s message spoke to me on the power of the human mind. Positive psychology focuses on studying the exceptional in 

order to elevate the status quo. Shawn’s message culminates in what he refers to as the happiness advantage: Your brain at positive is more productive than it is at negative, neutral, or stressed. Referencing his brother-in-law, Bobo, Shawn speaks on the lens in which we view the world as shaping our reality. He throws a few stats our way:

“90% of your long-term happiness is predicted … by the way your brain processes the world.”
“75% of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”

Happiness begets success
Rethinking how we view the world is as difficult as trying to understand all the lyrics to a Pearl Jam song (I fail miserably at the latter). In his talk, Shawn challenges the order in which we view happiness and success. He notes that our brains never get to success if happiness is always on the other side: receiving good grades makes one want better grades and meeting a performance goal leads to setting higher standards. We’ve all been there, continually striving for somewhere beyond the present moment or recent success.

There’s nothing wrong with planning and goal-setting, but this can all happen within the context of valuing where we are. Shawn made me think about the ‘work harder to get somewhere’ mentality that at times consumes my life. I’m guilty of this often in sports, that an end goal takes precedence over the journey. As I reflect on valuing my experiences in the moment, I see this lesson helping me become a better captain, colleague, and friend.

We’re inundated with negative messages on a daily basis. News stations give token 5-minute segments to ‘random acts of kindness’ while Debbie Downer moments take over feature stories. Shawn shares his experience working with a New England boarding school, where they set up Wellness Week programming around topics of sickness. He encouraged the group to address the positive in their message … to speak on behalf of wellness. (Something we should take note of in our ODEE wellness initiatives.) The idea of raising positivity in the present can have a huge impact.

How can we make this change?
Change can be tough. But the reality is it does not need to be as dramatic TGIF’s Stefan Urquelle transformations we grew to love (okay, maybe just me). Shawn notes that in order to “reverse the formula for happiness and success,” we need to change the way our brains process the world. He focuses on five, simple behaviors – two minutes per day for 21 days – that can help us attain the happiness advantage: three gratitudes, journaling, exercise, meditation, and random acts of kindness.

I don’t know about you, but I feel empowered by positivity … the only thing that can stop me now is Chuck Norris.

3 thoughts on “Unicorns, Hogwarts, and the Happiness Advantage at Work

  1. This is one of the funniest, most thought provoking, feel-good-est talks I have ever listened to. So glad to have Kevin as my newest guest blogger. Thank you thank you!

  2. Loved this – especially his recognition around 9:40 of measuring success with interval accomplishments. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The nerd in me likes Shawn’s line: “how in a statistically valid way do we eliminate the weirdos?”

    Runners up: “…Bobo married Amy the unicorn”
    “…Harvard asked me to, I wasn’t that guy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *