Rho’s Book Club: The Happiness Advantage
July 14, 2015
Happiness Leads to Success, Not the Other Way Around
The Fulcrum and the Lever
The fulcrum and the lever is a metaphor used to describe changing your mindset to increase your happiness. The lever is how much potential we think we have and the fulcrum is the mindset we use to generate change power. Moving the fulcrum towards a negative mindset creates more negativity by enhancing your ability to experience unhappiness. Moving the fulcrum towards a positive mindset does the opposite—it enhances your ability to experience happiness, and makes it easier to be aware of all the reasons to be happy.
One example used to illustrate this principle was a week-long experiment on a group of 75 year old men. The men went on a retreat where they were told to pretend that it was 1959. They were supposed to dress and act as they did at the time, had ID pictures of themselves at that time, and talked about events that occurred in 1959. An amazing thing occurred—their mental construction of their age changed their physiological age. Prior to the retreat, the men were measured on aspects we assume deteriorate with age—physical strength, posture, perception, cognition, and short-term memory. By the end of the retreat, the men had improved in every aspect.
The Tetris Effect
In the example of playing Tetris each day, it can be negative. There are few practical implications to seeing shapes falling from the sky everywhere you go. This is also true for grumpy people. People who practice spotting things to complain about will find things to complain about everywhere and all the time.
On the other hand, people who practice spotting positive things—say, things that provoke gratitude—will find reasons to experience gratitude everywhere and all the time. Train your brain to look for the positive and you will see more opportunities for growth and more chances to help others grow. Our minds respond strongly to training and practice. One way to make this a practice is to start each day by making a list of three blessings (one form of a gratitude journal). Alternatively, you can make a short journal entry each day about a great experience you’ve had. Make these a habit and you increase your chances to seize on positive opportunities.
Achor reminds us that we can’t ignore reality—we shouldn’t ignore real risks; but, at the same time, we can give more priority, weight, and attention to the positive, and thus experience more of the positive.
The key to Falling Up is learning to use adversity and failure to get ahead. Those who see failure as horrible are traumatized by it. Those who see it as a chance to learn, grow. Whether an experience has a positive outcome isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond. That’s why we discourage blame here at Rho and encourage lessons.
One way to make this happen is to adopt a positive explanatory style. What does that mean? Look at adversity as something that is temporary and local. Compare your outcome to possible outcomes that are worse. Changing both your inward and outward dialogue about failure and adversity can change how you actually feel about it.
When we encounter an unexpected challenge, the best way to save ourselves is to hold tight to the folks around us. Things get tough for all of us from time to time, yet people tend to respond in one of two distinct ways. One way is to close people out. Final exams are coming, so you lock yourself in a study carrel for weeks without outside contact. Or, you reach out and connect. You intentionally set aside time to go out and have fun with your friends. The group that takes the second direction consistently performs better and is happier. This applies to work settings too.
This principle should change how we as leaders spend our time. Time spent building and reinforcing relationships is almost always time well spent. Make eye contact. Ask interested questions. Schedule face-to-face meetings. Initiate conversations that aren’t always task oriented. When good things happen, actively respond.