A few weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, a colleague of mine sent around a great TEDx talk, Shawn Achor’s The Happy Secret to Better Work, which has been viewed more than 23 million times.
I took 12 minutes out of a busy day to watch it. I enjoyed it, and connected to our team’s conversation about it. One takeaway that rose to the top was that to increase our positivity and happiness, we should engage in one random act of kindness each day. What’s not to like?
The following Monday, I came across that same thread in Slack.
I wanted to jump back into the conversation, but I immediately discovered that, outside of the “let’s do more random act of kindness” takeaway, I remembered virtually nothing about the talk.
I watched the talk again, this time taking some simple notes. Here they are.
- The talk is about positive psychology
- When we focus averages–in education, in economics, in life–we fail to design and plan for the extra-ordinary. This is a mistake.
- Our happiness is not objectively determined. If Shawn could look only at your externally-observable world (job, income, family life) he could only determine 10% of your happiness.
- IQ does not determine job success. 75% of job success is determined by optimism levels, social support, and seeing stress as a challenge not a threat.
- We need to reverse our mental model of happiness and success.
- The wrong model is: Work leads to Success which leads to Happiness.
- The problem with this model is that whenever we succeed, we move the goal posts (expect a higher level of performance), so we never get to Happiness, which we’ve put out on the horizon past Success.
- Instead, our job is to raise our own positivity in the present.
- Five things we can do to raise our positivity are:
- Practice being grateful for three things a day for 21 days;
- Journal about one positive experience per day;
- Engage in random acts of kindness by praising on person in our social support network each day.
Now, you should absolutely watch the talk. It’s a thousand times better than my notes, full of wonderful humor, sibling rivalries, and an actual unicorn story.
But if you’re like me, the talk, and this blog post, no matter how much you enjoy it, will slip through your fingers if you don’t take active steps to process it. I, for one, remembered less than 5% of the content.
Processing, for me, comes in three forms, each stronger than the last. I can:
- Document what I’m reading / listening to – by taking notes or writing a blog post.
- Retell the story verbally – sharing the content with others strengthens my recall, and it allows me to discover (and then fill in) gaps in my knowledge.
- Practice the new behavior.
When I fail to take these steps, ideas skim the surface of my consciousness and leave as quickly as they entered. When that happens, they are nothing more than entertainment.
Whereas when I shift from a passive consumer of content to an active processor of it, new ideas can stay in my brain and, over time, become part of my life.