What do Tetris, Zorro, and fulcrums have to do with happiness? That is a great question! In session two of our Happiness Advantage staff development series we discussed how to “Retrain the Brain”. If you remember in session one, “What is Happiness?”, we discussed that happiness was a very personal thing and was subjective for each person, we also dove into the advantages of a happy, positive mindset on our personal and professional lives.
We kicked off our second session with a quote from Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage,
“You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body.”
This statement resonated with me and knocked the point home pretty clearly. I am a runner and when training for a race I have to not only run (duh!) but do strength training, conditioning, and monitor what my body is telling me so I can make adjustments. This is hard work, takes time, and, at times, hurts, but I know the payoff is worth it as I build muscle and endurance. The same goes for our minds. We have to train and condition our minds to be positive and have the correct, healthy outlook on situations and life. It may be difficult, hard work, take time, and hurt, but just like when you are getting in shape the payoff is worth it!
We went over 5 principles that we called “The Training Ground for Your Brain”:
The Fulcrum and the Lever
Our power to maximize our individual potential is based on the length of our lever – the potential and possibility we have, and the position of our fulcrum – our mindset that houses our power to change.
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes
By changing the way we perceive our work and ourselves, we can find greater meaning in even the smallest tasks we do on a daily basis. The more we can align our daily tasks with our personal vision, the more likely we are to see work as a calling.
The Tetris Effect
In the professional world, as in our personal lives, we are often rewarded for noticing the problems that need solving, the stresses that need managing, and the injustices that need righting. This can be useful, but if we get stuck in the one pattern, we will miss out on the positives in life. We can operate in two mindsets:
Negative Tetris Effect – pessimistic and fault-finding which opens us up to depression, stress, poor health, and holds us back
Positive Tetris Effect – our brains scan for good things in life – opportunities and possibilities – which opens us open to more energy, success, and happiness
This principle lines up perfectly with one of our mantra here at VoiceNation – “Fail Forward”. This means to turn mistakes into stepping stones for success. Our minds have a very powerful ability to map pathways through circumstances. We play a big part in training our minds to go down certain paths. We either allow it to makes us stay right where we are, go further into negative consequences of whatever the circumstance is, or pick yourself up from the failure and grow from it.
“We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices.” By Jim Collins
“Things do not necessarily happen for the best, but some people are able to make the best out of things.” By Tel Ben-Shahar
The Zorro Circle
Our brains tend to get hijacked by emotions when we are faced with challenges, stress, or disappointment. This principle is about limiting our focus, mentally, to small, bite-size goals to regain the feeling of control. Just like in the movie, our hero, Zorro, had to learn to master the first circle before he could move on to the next. It is the same way here. We have to have the self-awareness to know how we feel about the situation, then know what we can and what we cannot control. Once we know this, then we can define our first circle to start in.
“Small successes can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand.” By Shawn Achor
The 20-Second Rule
The principle has to do with our willpower and what we direct our energy towards – helping good habits or supporting bad habits. We have to learn small steps to rerouting the energy and time it takes to go down the path of least resistance. Making a minor step like putting the TV remote further away from you and putting a book closer. Or maybe, laying out your workout clothes the night before so you do not have to think about what you will wear to the gym the next morning when you are laying there in your nice warm bed wanting to go back to sleep. I can personally speak from experience where if I give myself the chance to “think” about anything or have to make a decision it will just be too tough and I will just go back to sleep instead of getting up and going to the gym. In this area, our actions do speak louder than our words. Even if we know what we should do, but do not do the right thing then our knowledge is meaningless.
“The key to creating permanent, positive habits is ritual, repeated practice until the actions become ingrained in your brain’s neural chemistry.”
Whew…that was a lot of info, but it was good to learn and know. As we continue, in our “Happiness” month here at the office it is good to both celebrate and learn how to be a more positive, productive, happy person at work and life in general. Next week, we get to visit the “Happiest Place on Earth”, and learn about happiness in social investment and the ripple effect. Stay tuned!