A lot of people lecture on happiness, how to be happy, what makes us happy, and often it has to do with setting goals and finding ways of achieving them. And while I think those skills are valuable, you rarely hear of someone who has a concrete, well-researched, and simple plan for how to make your life more happy. And that has to come from internal sources of happiness, not external, as research has shown that in the vast majority of cases, happiness cannot be predicted based upon external factors.
Why? Well, Shawn Achor insists that in our society, “we’ve pushed our happiness over the cognitive horizon.”
What does that mean? It means that we’re programmed to always want more. If you get a good job, you need to do better and better at it, and you need to outperform others, and you need to quest for the promotion or the raise all the time. Not because you’re a jerk, but because that’s what society expects. When you hit your sales goals, you’re given newer, higher ones. We’re like sharks, we have to keep moving or we die.
Achor isn’t an off-the-grid hippie saying that we should stop questing for more. He’s saying that we should stop questing for more in order to find happiness. What he proposes instead is to turn happiness inside out, and discover that happiness makes you more resilient and more efficient, among other things. And these are the traits that eventually help us get ahead. But that requires a reversal in how we think about achieving happiness.
The best thing about Achor’s plan is that he gives very specific tools for how to find happiness outside of chasing ever-changing goals. These tools are well-researched, as his team is hired to go into companies to help their workforce perform better—through happiness. Here is the graphic he presents in the TED video, and Achor elaborates and explains specifically how to do this in the video. Also, it only takes two minutes to do most of these steps every single day.
Achor suggests sitting down every morning and being sure that the very first email you write is to somebody praising them, thanking them, or telling them something positive. Just imagine the ripple effect that would have. He also suggests writing down two things you’re grateful for every single day, because when we remember positive things, we get to experience them again, which releases dopamine, which gives you all those positive benefits.
Personally, I find this strategy intriguing, not only because it resonates with me as feeling very true and intuitive, but also because he has solid research to back its effectiveness.
Watch the video and see what you think. Are there ways in which you’re already doing all of this? In what ways can you make these things work for you?