Unicorns and lightning bugs. Yes, those are certainly two topics that made me smile – and they were part of the keynote session by Shawn Achor on the last day of the Show. But, after an hour of listening to Achor speak, the audience left with a herd of unicorns and trees full of lightning bugs. First, though, everyone had to ponder this question and then embrace it: How much of happiness is a choice?
Achor said he started his happiness research when he was just 7 years old, and his sister was his research subject. Luckily for Achor, unicorns make younger sisters happy enough to forget that they just got hurt falling off a bunk bed! Since then, Achor has made happiness his business, even when he, himself, was going through depression. He has spent years and experimented on countless subjects in the quest to find out more and to prove that happiness is not just in your genes and based on your environment. He found that if you make small changes – specific ones – you can break “the tyranny” of being unhappy.
Just visualizing the “experiments” he shared could put on smile on your face. Though, for a couple of them, visualization wasn’t necessary. Achor had everyone in the room be the subjects for one of his experiments (what fun!) and the one on video about the waiting room was incredible. Then, there was one about 15 strangers all waiting for their plane. If one person begins to bounce nervously in place, it won’t take long before everyone will start to shift nervously in place. “We can pick (negativity and nervousness) up like second-hand smoke,” said Achor. “The entire system can become cancerous.
Luckily, “Happiness can become viral too.”
That is the most important piece of the data. Our brains are designed to be wireless connected, said Achor. “We co-process the world….Happiness is not an individual sport.” This is part of the reason that obstacles seem easier to overcome if you have help. If you look at a hill by yourself, your brain sees a hill 10-20% higher than if someone is standing next to you, he said.
This is where the lightning bugs come in, too – synchronous lightning bugs in the trees that timed their pulses perfectly together. Research showed that their mating success rate was much higher as an “interconnected” group.
So how do you achieve happiness and use that success to help your business grow? How can you use happiness to turn on your brain and accomplish more? The first step is to create some “happiness hygiene habits”:
1. Every day, look for three new things you are thankful for in the past 24 hours. That can help you change from a pessimist to an optimist. Write down what you are thankful for.
2. Spend 2 minutes writing a positive email to someone every day. “Your social connection is the greatest predictor of your happiness in life,” said Achor. Gratitude is the glue to the social cohesion of a team, he added.
Remember this: Happiness can be a choice, it is contagious in the system and it is the greatest competitive advantage in the economy. Sales won’t make you happy, but happiness will make you sales.
Achor also said a whole lot more, and it was incredibly insightful though impossible to detail in this summary. Luckily, Achor has written some books (e.g. The Happiness Advantage) and is a TED Talks speaker, so if you would like to know more about how to be happy and how it can positively influence your business, check them out.