Last week’s post began to explore the book, The Happiness Advantage by Sean Achor. Achor provides great research based evidence to support the importance of happiness and how to increase your level of happiness. This week we’ll explore three of the strategies Achor suggests.
1. Our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality. Achor states, “Because our brain’s resources are limited, we are left with a choice: to use those finite resources to see only pain, negativity, stress, and uncertainty, or to use those resources to look at things through a lens of gratitude, hope, resilience, optimism, and meaning. In other words, while we of course can’t change reality through sheer force of will alone, we can use our brain to change how we process the world, and that in turn changes how we react to it.”
Psychology has shown that our mindset doesn’t just change how we feel about an experience, it actually changes the results of that experience. Take for example the placebo effect. Placebos are 55%-60% as effective as most active medications for controlling pain. It is a simple change of mindset (the belief that patients are taking an actual drug) and is powerful enough to make the actual symptoms disappear.
Take a look at the picture above. The way you see it is your perception. Why can some people only see the young lady, some the old lady, and some both? Interpretation of reality.
2. Achor explains that just as your mindset about work affects your performance, it also affects your ability. Studies show that belief in our own ability is a stronger predictor of performance than our actual level of skill or training. Achor explains that we can give ourselves a competitive advantage by focusing on all of the reasons we will succeed, rather than fail, by reminding ourselves of all of the skills we have, rather than lack, and believing that we can improve our abilities.
It also goes back to the point I’ve made repeatedly about focusing on your strengths, rather than dwelling on weaknesses. Most importantly, our beliefs about our abilities are not necessarily innate, but can change. This means you can teach yourself to be more confident and assured. Years of research have shown that a specific and concerted focus on your strengths during a task produces the best results.
3. There is a phenomenon called the Pygmalion Effect: when our belief in another person’s potential brings that potential to life. Basically, the expectations we have about our children, co-workers, boss, or partner can make that expectation a reality.
Achor cites a study where teachers that believed that a handful of their students had been identified as academic superstars, with the greatest potential for growth. The teachers were instructed not to spend more time with the students or treat them any differently. At the end of the year, the student’s test scores reported that they had off the chart intellectual ability. The only problem? They were randomly selected and originally had similar test scores to the rest of the class. Even though they had spent no more time or given them no more attention, the teachers’ beliefs that the children were extraordinary were enough to make it so. The belief that the teachers had in the students’ potential had been nonverbally communicated, and this was digested by the students and transformed into reality.
What beliefs do you have about your kids, coworkers, spouse, or others in your life? It appears that you could be creating your own reality.
Let me know what you think of the concepts in the book so far! Leave a comment here or join me on Facebook.